For those Brattleboro town residents that feel that the property taxes are excessive and only getting worse, please pay attention to the decisions coming out of Town Meeting. When it comes to the RTM portion of the town budget there is precious little consideration given to fiscal responsibility and the concerns of taxpayers, especially those that are on a fixed income. In the last few years there has been a constant and relentless movement to spend ever increasing sums of money (and some more than requested) on issues and things that are only tangentially related to the direct business of running the town.
A March 16 letter to the editor of the Reformer, ”Increase Select Board stipends to foster inclusion and diversity” proposes a more than 100 percent raise in stipends for Select Board members. I completely disagree with this proposal. First off, we must agree that being a Select Board member is a very difficult, time consuming, and somewhat thankless job. It takes a special kind of individual to do this job and do it well. It is not the kind of job that just anybody can do. It has traditionally been (and should continue to be) comprised of those individuals that wish to make a personal contribution to making the town run smoothly for all residents. Obviously the payment for such civic contribution is but a small token given the responsibilities and duties of the work.
The amount of payment should never be a primary motivation for public service. The authors of this column claim that a majority of the town residents are being excluded from accessing this Board. Running for Select Board is open to all residents that meet the filing requirements. It should not be the job of the taxpayers (by increasing stipends) to make it easier (or harder) for anybody to run. I am much more interested in a candidate that has a real passion for contributing to the town and who will find a way to overcome whatever obstacles they perceive to have in order to attain this goal. If that means making difficult personal decisions about structuring one’s life in order to enable one to do this job, then so be it. The decision to serve and how to do it is a personal one and should not be made with any expectation that the taxpayers must contribute to one’s personal goals. If one currently feels that they can’t participate and are part of an interested constituency then ask them to band together with financial assistance. It’s just not a job for the taxpayers.
The authors of this column also conveniently omitted an important piece of data supplied by the town. A chart comparing Brattleboro Select Board pay with similar similar sized towns in Vermont that had similar government is provided in the Finance Committee Report FY22. That chart reveals that Brattleboro leads the way (in some cases by a significant amount) in stipends for Select Board members. So, it’s not as though Brattleboro is overly tight with monetary outlay for this public service.
In the end this is yet another wedge issue being brought forward by a loud, vocal and persistent minority in town. Their ever increasing demands for more and more taxpayer money to solve all of their personal issues, both real and perceived, is fiscally irresponsible. There must be more care shown by RTM members in funding the budget in a fiscally responsible manner so that tax bills remain manageable for all residents.