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To the editor: Representative Town Meeting's decision to more than double the stipend for the Brattleboro Select Board is a misguided one, and an insult to our citizens and taxpayers. While no sitting member will deny that more money is a nice thing while serving in our challenging positions, it is absolutely the wrong message to send for what must remain a volunteer position, because volunteer roles of responsibility are the backbone of our citizen democracy here in Brattleboro, and throughout Vermont.

Our taxpayers now, instead of paying $17,000 per year for all Select Board members, will be footing the bill of $42,000, plus unknown child care/elder care expenses going forward. One rash decision by RTM this past weekend and taxpayers are now paying at least 147 percent more for five volunteers. And today, Brattleboro has the dubious distinction of being the highest paid Select Board (by far) of any town in Vermont, and possibly throughout New England. This will result in a more politicized Brattleboro, not in a better qualified or more dedicated Select Board.

Brattleboro has a well-paid and excellent staff for a very good reason: We avoid turning the administration of our town into a political football, and when we move away from the Select Board being a clearly volunteer position, we invite the board being looked at as a career choice, and those serving become closer to “politicians” as opposed to residents representing the entire town.

Adding an additional stipend for needed child/elder care makes sense, but how does this huge overall pay increase possibly fix anything for our town? Why would it increase accessibility for people with lower incomes, when they would still have to get elected in an increasingly attractive position for candidates of all income levels? This does nothing to level an economic playing field, and everything to increase the competition for Select Board seats, while simultaneously disrespecting the hundreds of important other volunteers in Brattleboro town government who get no compensation whatsoever.

I am grateful to those in my community who are attempting to signal their appreciation for all the hard work we all do on the Select Board, and appreciate that some think that this will help encourage some to serve who could not previously. Even so, this is too much, and spending more money doesn’t magically produce the town government that you desire. Any candidate still has to be elected by the voters.

As someone who can definitely use those extra dollars, I will be cashing those checks with gratitude, but I will mourn the short-sighted decision made by RTM this past weekend. I urge anyone who agrees with my views to speak up, contact your Town Representatives, and let your feelings be known, because this can be overturned. Let’s use our taxpayer dollars more wisely than doubling our Select Board stipends.

Tim Wessel

Brattleboro Select Board

March 24

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