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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Selectboard Meeting Notes: Tax Relief and Town Meeting Season (For Everyone Over 18)


The Brattleboro Selectboard spent most of the regular Tuesday meeting adding things to the agenda for Representative Town Meeting in March. They also gave over $30,000 to a regional effort to develop the economy, and firmly set forth their final budget for FY15.

A number of the articles put on the warning were aimed at reducing property taxes. One thing that won’t be on the Town Meeting agenda, at least not this year, is lowering the voting age to sixteen.

In food news, the former Bickfords will become Brattleboro’s latest pizza place, a regional chain called Ramuntos Brick Oven Pizza. Read on for all the details.

Preliminaries

Chair David Gartenstein used his opening remarks to address the issue of 16 year olds voting in town. He said they had discussed putting the issue on the Town Meeting agenda, but decided that the request was premature.

“It’s an interesting and substantial issue,” he said. “Amending the Charter is a big deal. Changing the voting age is an even bigger deal. It’s a very big deal.” Issues about running for Town Meeting seats and the age for entering into contracts need to be worked out with the Town Attorney, he told the room.

He said that the Selectboard would continue to look at lowering the voting age for certain town matters, but “it won’t be on this year’s town meeting.”

Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland said that up to three tons of patch per day was being applied to Western Avenue/Route 9, and that he is working with VTrans to see when it can be paved.

For Selectboard comments and committee reports, John Allen mentioned a “rousing” Police Fire committee meeting in which soil tests were discussed. He said everything was moving along well. He agreed with David Schoales that the preliminary architectural plans and concept drawings were impressive.

Schoales added that the commitment to staying under budget has been reiterated.

Public Participation

Two people spoke to the issue of teen voting. The first was a woman who said she was confident the board could work out issues so 16 year olds could at least speak at Town Meeting, if not vote, and offered the assistance of the group’s attorney Paul Gillies to the town.

The second was Ben Knapp, a “local youth” who said he felt passionate about the issue. He said it was a great way to involve kids in the community, and keep them here after they graduate. He said it could help with voter apathy, too.

Paul Cameron presented the Brattleboro Selectboard with an award for reducing energy use. The town had entered an energy leadership challenge to reduce electric consumption by at least 7.5% over two years, and Brattleboro exceeded the goal. He said the reduction was due in part to the replacement of streetlights and the new Waste Water Treatment Plant.

He thanked the town for their long commitment to energy efficiency, and gave the elegant, glass award to the board on behalf of Efficiency Vermont.

Kate O'Connor and John Allen showed off the award for the BCTV cameras. In the process, it fell from its fancy blue box and broke. It had looked quite nice, but was now in need of repairs.

Allen joked that O’Connor must have been drinking, although he too appeared to have been involved in the breaking of the award.

Liquor Commissioners - Ramuntos Brick Oven Pizza

As the applicants positioned themselves before the board, they jokingly warned they would not serve O’Connor at their restaurant.

Ramuntos Brick Oven Pizza is the name of a new pizza and Italian food establishment opening at 1111 Putney Road off the traffic circle, the former location of Bickford’s Restaurant. It’s part of a growing chain of restaurants with locations in both Vermont and New Hampshire.

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved a first class liquor license for owners David Ingerman and Michael Onorato.

Ingerman said they operate a sister restaurant in Keene, and that he is a sucker for old buildings. He said the building near Exit 3 is being brought up to date and made energy efficient, but that it is slow and careful process because of the age and construction of the building. He said it had been built in phases.

He promised that when the restaurant opens in a few months it would be family friendly. ”Extremely family oriented.”

“It’ll always be a HoJo’s to us,” joked John Allen, before thanking them for fixing up the old building.

Ingerman said that it had originally been a stop off point for a ferry, then it was expanded. “We’ve been careful that it is structurally sound, and an asset for years to come.”

Monthly Finance Report with John O’Connor

Brattleboro Finance Director John O’Connor gave the Selectboard the monthly financial update through the month of December 2013, the halfway point for the fiscal year.

At halftime, Brattleboro’s General Fund expenditures were noted to be at 53.3% of the annual budget. Utilities Fund expenditures were at 47.7% and Parking Fund expenditures came in at 45.4% of their annual budgets. “Right on target,” he said. “We’re cranking along just fine.”

The town has spent $84,102 on the Police-Fire Facilities Project.

Just over $4 million in outstanding loans have been given out, and Brattleboro has just over $500,000 in available funds for additional loans as needed.

O’Connor said there were 37 active grants and 15 in the application process.

David Gartenstein asked how the utilities bills were accounted for. O’Connor said that the most recent bill covers a period about three months prior, and they are put into the budget when they are billed.

Disbursement of Funds to SeVEDS

The Brattleboro Selectboard voted to give Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) $36,147 from VCDP program income. The money will be used to support the organization in its efforts to implement economic development strategies.

SeVEDS coordinator Laura Sibilia told the board that their previous year donation of $50,000 in funds was used to challenge other towns to invest in the organization. An additional $66,000 was raised from Rockingham, Wilmington, Vernon, Newfane, Dover, and Marlboro.

She said the money was used to create a workforce development coordinator position and support the operating expenses of the organization.

Pat Moulton Powden, Executive Director at BDCC, said there was another accomplishment: finalizing a regional comprehensive economic development strategy, or CEDS. She said that it helped that the region has a plan with goals, and projects when negotiating the agreement with Entergy to pay $2 million a year for 5 years for economic development in Windham County.

She said the money would go to the state, then be given out as grants, with priority for projects that create jobs. “CEDS will be the guiding document.”

The board was told that SeVEDS work will lead to federal grant opportunities to implement economic development projects in the region, and asked that Brattleboro and other towns contribute $3 per person to the organization.

Donna Macomber asked what SeVEDS would like from the lay person.

Sibilia said the region has been in a long slow decline, and it will take more than $10 million dollars and 5 years to turn things around. “Hopefully in five years we’ll begin to move the needle,” she said. “It’s hard. The public wants things right now.”

Moulton Powden agreed. “Patience.” She said it was important that towns were now working as a region. “Our workforce is mobile. The regional approach expands the conversation.”

Gartenstein asked how the previous money was spent, and how the new funds would be used.

Moulton Powden said it paid for staff positions. “You help us cover our operating expenses. We’re the only part of the state that has a full-time workforce development person,” noting that it was because we needed it the most.

Gartenstein reminded the board that the money comes from program income, which is interest and a portion of loan repayments available to the town from previous grant funding work.

Windham and Windsor Housing Trust Resolution

The Selectboard voted unanimously to designate the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust as a nonprofit community development organization (NCDO), which will help the organization be able to spend their recently-approved VCDP Scattered Site Implementation Grant of $1 million.

It’s a loan program for low income homeowners.

David Schoales asked how the Selectboard had the authority to determine if an organization was a non-profit, but after a bit of discussion, they decided they could both take Patrick Moreland's word for it, and that the motion under consideration was simply designating the group as the entity doing the work, not attesting to corporate status.

Brattleboro Annual Appointments

As is customary this time each year, the board officially put forth the names they would like to appoint to Town Clerk, Town Treasurer, and Town Attorney. It should come as no surprise that Annette Cappy, John O’Connor, and Fisher & Fisher, respectively, were the nominations to be sent along to Representative Town Meeting.

David Gartenstein asked what the contractual obligations with the Town Attorney were, and Interim Town Manager Moreland said that they were in the final year of a three year contract. He said they might consider putting the job out to bid sometime in the coming year.

John Allen asked why ratification was needed if there was a contract in place.

“It’s in the Town Charter to appoint them,” said Moreland.

“If Representative Town Meeting didn’t approve the appointment, we’d then reconsider the contract?” asked Kate O’Connor.

Moreland paused, then said yes. “It hasn’t happened before...”  He said they’d probably need to consult the Town Attorney.

Local Options Tax, Non-Binding for Voters

Despite the issue being voted down by a recent Representative Town Meeting, the Brattleboro Selectboard is going to try once again to see if citizens would like to pay an additional 1% for goods they buy in town. 

This time around, voters at large will be asked in a non-binding fashion to weigh in on Town Meeting Day on March 4, and the results will be known to Representative Town Meeting members later in the month when they vote on the tax.

“Last year we proposed companion articles at a special Representative Town Meeting,” said David Gartenstein. ”seeking authority to bond for the Police-Fire facility and provide for a funding source for the renovations. The bonds were approved, but the tax was defeated resoundingly.”

He said that some members of the Selectboard would like to revisit the issue.. 

John Allen said he wasn’t in favor of the tax, but was in favor of letting everyone in Brattleboro weigh in “and finally lay it to rest. I’m not one to keep bringing things up until one gets their way. Let’s say goodbye to this once and for all.”

Kate O’Connor shared Allen’s feelings about the tax, and about letting the public vote on it. She said she wondered if there could be some language that sunsets the tax at a certain point.

Gartenstein said it wasn’t needed because the motion says what the purpose is for “so there is sunsetting intent included.”

O’Connor said state statute allowed for Town Meeting to rescind local option taxes at any point.

Gartenstein no public information session was planned before the earlier non-binding vote, but that information would be made available on the Town’s web site.

Patrick Moreland said the projected revenue from the tax could approach $650,000 a year.

“But we don’t know what negative impact might be,” added Gartenstein.

“A tax is a tax is a tax,” said Allen.

David Schoales noted that some things were exempt from the tax, such as heating oil and gasoline.

Local Options Tax for Representative Town Meeting

As noted above, Representative Town Meeting members will take up the issue of a new 1% sales tax in Brattleboro a few weeks after the town-wide, non-binding vote. The Brattleboro Selectboard voted to put the local options tax issue on the agenda for them to discuss and debate.

“I’m sure Dick Degray is a happy camper if he is watching,” said John Allen.

“We’ll see what the vote is,” said David Gartenstein. “I don’t need to remind anyone that the acronym for the local option sales tax is LOST.”

Transfer of Unused Skating Rink Funds

Should Brattleboro transfer $310,540 from unspent skating rink repair funds back into the General Fund to help defray taxes? The Brattleboro Selectboard agreed this would be another good issue to be on the agenda for Representative Town Meeting.

Background: it cost closer to $45,000 rather than $350,000 to fix the skating rink.

John O’Connor said that this transfer is already reflected in the budget being presented, so if it doesn’t pass, taxes would be adjusted upward.

“Kate, do you want to say something?” prodded John Allen.  “These are one time funds...”

“We’re building our budget on the skating rink money,” said Kate O’Connor. “It’s a good discussion for town meeting.”

Appropriate Unassigned Fund Balance

The Unassigned Fund Balance is a bit like a rainy day fund for the town, and the Selectboard has a guideline of maintaining it at 10% to cover emergencies. As of June of 2013, the fund had a balance of just over $1.7 million.

The Brattleboro Selectboard suggests using some of those funds to help reduce taxes in the coming year, and voted to put the issue before Representative Town Meeting members for their consideration.

David Gartenstein said that while the issue could have been raised from the floor with a motion, the Selectboard decided to propose it for inclusion on the agenda.

David Schoales asked for clarification about the total amount available. He was told that of the $1.7 million, about $150,000 of it was spoken for already, for Elm Street bridge repairs and moving the town communication tower.

Patrick Moreland reminded the board that there could be an FY14 surplus that could be applied toward tax reduction, and if not the unassigned balance could be tapped.

John Allen said he pushed for this to be on the agenda. “Kate has said that when you do one-time budget offsets, it gives a false impression,” he said. “The fund is only there because of taxpayers. It’s our duty to do everything we can to lower taxes. I’m really pushing for this. I’m going to ask for $300,000. We’ll see what support we get.”

David Schoales said he had been interested in this idea, but after consulting with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, he was convinced that having a 10% reserve for emergency use was a better use of the funds. “We have expensive things that can break,” he said, adding that “We might need it more next year to offset taxes. I’d rather wait and keep a bit more in reserve.”

“Every year we wait,” countered Allen. “We force people on the brink. At what point, what is the straw that breaks the back? I’m having a hard time with that. I still don’t see why our taxes are so high. I ran on lowering taxes. I’d like to see, for once, some go back to the taxpayers, to give them hope we are fighting for the people of this town.”

“I’ll vote against this” said Gartenstein. He said they were already putting $300,000 toward tax relief, and more will be needed next year to pay of Police Fire facility bonds. “The work needs to be done to support the town. There is going to be a tax increase to pay for the work. Maybe next year.” He also disagreed that the fund was a “slush fund” saying that it was to be used for specific purposes.

Allen made a motion to take $300,000 from the unassigned fund balance to reduce the tax levy.

Donna Macomber said she could agree to $200,000 this year, and maybe $200,000 next year if possible. She thought a gesture of relief with a smaller portion of the fund would keep them from being caught off guard if other emergencies arise.

Allen said there was a surplus every year, and he was hoping that an FY14 surplus would offset this request and allow them to keep the reserve. “To me, this is an emergency, as much as Western Avenue potholes. That’s how strongly I feel.”

“I’m not comfortable banking on a surplus. That doesn’t seem fiscally responsible to me,” said Macomber.

The board voted 4-1, Gartenstein against, to ask for $200,000 from the fund to relieve taxes this year.

Reconsider Agricultural Land Protection Fund

Late last year the board voted to reassign Agricultural Land Protection Funds for the purposes of lowering taxes in the coming year. The total amount available was $95,000, which included both principal and interest.

At the last Selectboard meeting, David Gartenstein suggested using $50,000 of those funds to start an energy efficiency fund, and the remainder for tax relief.

The second proposal (David Gartenstein) was to use the principal to start a $50,000 “energy efficiency fund” and let the accrued interest (45k) be put towards tax reduction.

“It’s an appropriate realignment of our priorities to put unused money toward long term energy efficiency gains,” he said.

David Schoales reminded the board that one young farmer had wanted to keep a portion of the funds available for their original use. “The more established farmers don’t need it. It’s good to remember.”

John Allen said the fund could always be brought back and recreated if necessary. “Charlie Robb has been around, through good and bad, and he said we’re okay and have good support. Very insightful.”

The board voted to reconsider their previous decision, then voted to put the energy-efficient version of the article on the warning for Representative Town Meeting.

Approval of FY15 Budget

The Brattleboro Selectboard officially completed the FY15 budget by adding it to the Representative Town Meeting agenda, at a total of $16,284,625 for the General Fund (operations).

Capital expenses (bigger, scheduled purchases) are expected to be $1,380,475.

Revenue of $828,585.90 is reported from donations ($100,000), loans ($288,000), and a general fund transfer of $551,616.10.

The FY15 municipal property tax rate will be $1.2240, up from $1.1389 last year, and increase of $.0851.

Increases in municipal taxes for varying property values are calculated to be:

$100,000 -  $ 85.14

$150,000 - $127.71

$200,000 - $170.28

$250,000 - $212.84

$300,000 - $255.41

Kate O’Connor said the budget needs to be discussed at Town Meeting. “I don’t like the number we came to,” she said. “None of us do. I’m happy with the work, but not the end result.”

John Allen agreed. “I wanted a much lower figure,” he said. “We worked our tails off...”

...”and we aren’t wagging them, “added Macomber.

Allen continued. “Then schools. It’s going to be a hit on people in this town. I hope they know where it is going. People in town, you have to get involved. If you want to see change, get involved somehow. It’s a drum we’re always going to beat.”

“We’ve had discussions about how people most impacted by high taxes are those who can’t always come to meetings to express their views,” added Macomber.

“We’ve said it a lot,” agreed Allen.  “The people trust us to do due diligence.”

David Gartenstein added to Allen’s warning about school taxes. He said there could be a 10 cent increase from High School and Town school budgets. “The total increase [for taxpayers] could be around 19 cents in total. Education taxes are already higher than property taxes.

He said there was some good news in that the Grand List had increased by $10 million.

David Schoales said the state had added to the education tax increase. “It’s frustrating,” he said. “You cut and reduce and you get hit with a 10 cent increase in tax. It’s incredible.”

American Legion Little League Field

Should the American Legion Little League Field be exempt from the municipal portion of its taxes for the land and buildings at Oak Grove Avenue? The Brattleboro Selectboard deemed this a worthy question for Representative Town Meeting and voted to put it on the agenda. 

A similar request was approved two years ago. The property is valued at about $99,000, with about $1,127 in municipal taxes assessed. The Legion requested that the previous exemption be extended by three years.

The Legions representative, Mr. Costello, said that the field was purchased after WWII by vets, and was later transferred to the American Legion. There is a $10,000 annual budget for the field that is raised from donations and advertising. “The Legion has no connection to activities at the field. It is only for the kids. We just own it.”

David Schoales asked about other exempt properties. Gartenstein explained that a few properties in town don’t meet the state standards for tax exemption, and that Town Meeting can grant exemptions. Camp Wampanoaug, Brattleboro Child Development, and the American Legion are among those getting exemptions, usually for a period of five years.

Wrapping Up

“My prediction that we’d end at 8 was spot on,” announced Gartenstein to his fellow board members.

As a reward, the board had him read the calendar of upcoming meetings.

»

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Increases in total taxes

Increases in total taxes combined
Recently with the more mathematically able assistance of Lisa Lorimer I calculated here on ibrattleboro the combined tax increase assuming the projected school tax rate of 10 cents. I think this gives a clearer picture of what sort of increases property owners will see

The range would be from $187 to $701 for homes valued from $100,000 to $375,000, assuming that 10 cents figure is correct

$100,000 $187.00
$150,000 $280
$175,000 $327
$200,000 $374
$225,000 $420
$250,000 $467
$275,000 $514
$300,000 $561
$325,000 $607
$350,000 $654
$375,000 $701
Note that we are only addressing $1 million of the project police/fire station project with these increases out of a proposed total cost of $14 million.

 
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CORRECTION

The increases for this year include the costs to homeowners of only $700,000 of the proposed $14+ million dollar police/fire station.

 
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Thanks Rosa and Lisa

Just to be clear, you are listing total municipal + school tax increases for varying home values, not total tax owed, right?

What do you think of the one year, one-time uses of other funds and such to keep rates down for this year vs. holding on to them for next year? It seems a bit like poverty thinking to me - raid the emergency cash to cover something unaffordable, then live the riskier life without the same level of emergency funds, but I can see John Allen's point about doing everything to reduce taxes. Of course, there were many other things they did not do… so it may be a matter of picking and choosing which "everything" to go after.

Gartenstein hit on an argument in support of the Police Fire project. That is, if we don't do it now, when will it be done? I think any effort to stop or stall the project will have to come from representatives at town meeting. It's been full steam ahead for the Town since the special Representative Town Meeting to get the bonds.

 
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Added to last years tax

Added to last years tax bill.
I wish these were the actual combined tax bills in total!
But no, these are the increases for both municipal and school tax. The total amount tax rates will rise for the various assessed home values.
For example, let's say that a house that is valued at $250,000 is currently taxed at around $6,600 per year. I think that's close to the tax for that value. Now the tax rates will rise an additional $467 to $7,067. You can take your tax bill from last year and just add the amount shown depending on the value of your home. That is what your combined tax bill municipal and school will be for next year.

And as I said my concern is that this only reflects $700,000 applied of the total $14 plus million fire station project. It seems that there are no unusual increases this year, that the Selectboard has tried very hard to hold increases down and the school board also. So that indicates that we can expect these sorts of increases or more each year if that building project is continued and other expenses don't go down.

I'm going to respond to your other question after some thought. My gut response to the "If we don't do it now when" question is once the economy has picked up and there's more work in the area. Basically when we can afford to do it. Considering that Yankee is closing and there's little economic stimulus happening right now, not starting any projects that aren't absolutely necessary is not fiscally prudent in my opinion. But I'll give it more serious thought in awhile.

 
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Correction Considering that

Correction
Considering that Yankee is closing and there's little economic stimulus happening right now, STARTING any projects that aren't absolutely necessary is not fiscally prudent in my opinion. But I'll give it more serious thought in awhile.

If anyone sees any errors in my calculations or wants to weigh in on actual tax bill last year for any of these home values feel free, I can't access my papers right now. And as you can see am not much of a multi-tasker. Any errors in these figures are mine, Lisa helped me through the maze of calculating our tax bills. It only took 2 bottles of aspirin and some malox in addition to her assistance!

 
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Lateral Opportunities

?? Should Brattleboro transfer $310,540 from unspent skating rink repair funds back into the General Fund to help defray taxes? The Brattleboro Selectboard agreed this would be another good issue to be on the agenda for Representative Town Meeting.

Background: it cost closer to $45,000 rather than $350,000 to fix the skating rink.??

 

We should adhere to the most literal of definitions, i.e., funds in the skating fund stay in use for skating.

The remainder should be spent on "skating", and put towards the new skating facility.  

Beyond semantics, this would be Brattleboro stepping up.

 
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Carpe Diem

If anyone thinks I'm just being flip, or farcical- this idea is not so far-fetched.

The funds are already allocated for Recreation purposes. Secondly, if ever there was an auspicious opportunity to capitalize on an unexpected windfall, while making good on a long elusive promise, this is it.

It's been said before: This is an investment in the town, an amenity to draw new families, and a place for those already here who lack and need the physical and social outlet.

Don't let monetary fears paralyze us. And... if it's too much to get our heads around, let's stop the talk of how progressive, and supportive of skating we are as a town.

My understanding is to have this on the Town Meeting Ballot, I'd have to get 500 signatures by 5pm today...Any other ways to get it done?

 
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Try amending it at RTM

The other way would be to convince the Selectboard to have a special meeting to put the issue on the agenda. The issue could also be taken up from the floor of RTM during debate of this agenda item.

I'm usually a fan of ideas like this, but this would be a tough sell. The money was reluctantly taken from operating expenses and applied to emergency repairs at the skating rink. When the repairs were found to be able to be completed at a significantly lower cost, it meant that the remainder could be returned to cover operating expenses.

With tax rates being what they are, I'd imagine RTM reps will be inclined to offset their taxes. Plus, someone will point out that the skatepark was to be paid for with donations and grants, not taxes.

That said, you are right. With a wave of a pen, a skatepark could be financed in March. If the site selection wraps up around that time, the whole package would be ready to go. It would help offset the "no you can't vote" message to young people and show that adults are thinking of them.

I'd suggest getting Town Meeting Reps to suggest an amendment. Present your argument, and ask for a portion of the extra skating rink funds. Meet 'em halfway -homeowners get some tax relief, kids get their long-awaited park, and everyone can be happy. Win win.

 
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Those savings were sparingly

Those savings were sparingly accrued only because people like Don Dompier spoke out on such a committee supporting the importance of maintaining a functioning facility as the skating rink is for our youth and cared enough to scrutinize the misappropriation of funds for a malfunctioning system we were getting ripped off on the service of and specifically identified more practical options for repair that drastically reduced the overall operating expenditures to keep the skating rink up and running.
This money should either be put back into a fund to keep up the skating rink and fund the new skate park jointly at the Upper Living Memorial Skate Park area or where ever it ends up going, that's the only fair thing to do!

 
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In my opinon this is exactly

In my opinon this is exactly why this town is in budgetary crisis. You have saved $300,000 so you should spend it. As for a skatepark drawing families to the area, jobs are really the only thing that will do that in reality. Enough with the surveys and studies and spending money on plans. I think it's time to really move on some ideas that will realistically bring money and jobs into the community. And I don't mean a few minimum wage jobs at cottage shops.

And everyone should be placing their pet plans on the cupboard for another day when this town is in better shape economically. Not to mention new ideas about how to fund a skatepark.

 
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Life is short, the clock is running

Since there is a committee out there now searching for a new location, my suggestion was offered as a way to put some wind in their sails. As well as taking advantage of an unusual surplus to afford that which has been long sought.

I don’t believe skateparks are THE reason people move here. But for families with children (young or old), skateparks, bike paths and quality of life infrastructure are not only enticing, they indicate sane and healthy lifestyle priorities.

As one who raised children here who have already grown-up and moved away, I don’t want to see another generation thwarted. The tax defrayal would be negligible in comparison to the communal benefits. The compromise expenditure proposed above seems not only smart and fair, but entirely appropriate given the history of this project.

 
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Take a closer look maybe

If you examine more carefully the source of this seemingly bonified net surplus in savings, in my opinion, the reward should remain and benefit that allocation first and foremost ( the rec park), not be immediately relinquished to a higher authority for purposes that will end up being unrecognizably dispersed amongst the infinitesimal vortex you feel it would somehow momentarily satisfy as the insatiable appetite consuming our ever increasing tax dollars for a multitude of town expenditures such as in the past for traffic lights, did we really need those state of the art traffic lights everyone hates you might be more apt to find in downtown Hong Kong, the parking garage, half filled and Ugly, (unless this turns out to be the site of the skate park on the upper decks)?

This amount will hardly put a damper on or offer the necessary triage to the vast hemorrhaging as dollars burn bye at the rate we're going. At least we would have something tangible/enjoyable to show for that amount of money well spent on behalf of our community's youth who may stick around to make this an even better place someday, never mind about attracting newcomers when we can't support the current local population.

I don't see it as frivolous spending following the money trail back to it's original designation and the importance this community feels providing such a place as a skate park in an appropriate location it has earnestly expressed the need to create for many years now. Look at the unexpected surplus as a sign to build this park and build it soon before anymore time drags on now that consideration has been paid for a site selection process, a process that has taken several years to formally establish with the town's approval. Have you never watched an episode of MASH exemplifying the dire need of morale building in the face of adversity to get through and keep one's composure until the next episode with the relief of some good pier cheer in the heat of battle ?, good lesson for success or at least the appearance of success.

 
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Today in History

Jan 29 1886:

"Some of the boys are moving for the erection of a toboggan slide in Brattleboro, and have already gotten the promise of $200 for the purpose. The proposed location is in the Goodhue pasture, now owned by Mr. Crowell, the 30-foot elevation for the send-off to be built near the large chestnut tree."

Perhaps we should fulfill our promise to the tobogganists. : )

 
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Union Hill Ski Jump and Tobogan Slide

There used to be one at the old Northfield Hotel (MA.) that burned down, I have a picture of it and it looks like a blast, went there as a kid to sled at golf course, there's another famous steeper one still active (they have a festival around) I think in Camden, Maine but not sure that is the exact location.

Skate Park Site Selection Meeting this Thursday at the Gibson Aiken Center at 5:15!! Important public meeting!!! Mention that $300,000

 
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16 Year Olds

What do we think of 16 year olds voting on town matters?

If I were a 16 year old, I'd be interested. There are certainly examples of other towns and cities that find ways to include more youth in municipal government.

 
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an idea worth consideration

Allocating some of the suddenly available ice rink money to a skatepark is a great idea.
It would be a significant gesture of support from the town towards the effort of providing a safe skate area. It seems to me the Recreational Dept. should encompass the skatepark as a new facility, as they mentioned doing years ago when considering the Rt.30 park development. This influx of funds could make that a possibility, wherever the committee finally decides the skatepark should be. Why not think differently especially since these are truly "pennies from heaven", a rare opportunity?

 
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I think it's pretty clear why

I think it's pretty clear why this town is having a fiscal/tax crisis. And a little FYI, there are no "pennies from heaven." The pennies are coming from property owners pockets. This is not some sort of raining down of free money and yes, it isn't all that much when you just look at this surplus, but it just keeps adding up bit by bit until lo and behold, tax rates are so high that it's unsustainable. Jeez. Personally I"m starting to think that no one should be allowed to vote on town matters unless they own property or rent property so they have a stake in the game regardless of how old they are.
And might I remind those who wonder why rents are so high. It's because the property taxes are so high.

 
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Donation

Rosa, I appreciate all your and Lise's efforts to hash out the excruciating and frustrating details of how we arrive at a certain actual dollar amount per assessed value based on the increased tax rate applied to our property taxes and other relevant taxes we will end up paying this year in addition compared to past years and where this is leading us off a short pier in the near future (you have commented on in past threads), I'm a property owner (16 yrs.) and have two young adults living pay check to pay check, (one forced to move back home) I partially supplement the cost of living for when I can, so I certainly feel the constraint and pain in loss of every dollar exiting my wallet for good and are hard pressed to let it escape without unabated scrutiny and tracking.

With this in mind, what relief exactly would you figure $300,000 to the general fund will do for each and every individual here in town paying taxes (as it belongs to us all) and what that amount would break down to per capita in savings, although I completely see the principle you are addressing of paying for colossal pet project this town absolutely can't afford to take on any longer in this economy. Let's say it's ten dollars per tax payer, could we all not turn around and designate that amount in tax dollars (call it a donation) toward a skate park for our kids, would this minor contribution be too much to ask of our towns people and get the job done we have already invested countless hours trying to evaluate and develop?. I hope somebody brings up Spinoza's idea at town meeting.

 
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"A skitch in time"

Thank you for your support of this notion.

As to whether a Rep will make a motion, it's hard to say. My conviction comes from living a life practicing these sliding Arts, and knowing the value it offers, as well as seeing firsthand how much is gained by participation. For those who don't know, it may be hard to muster the nerve to stand before a crowd and expose themselves.

I liken this argument to a larger principle of democracy, which seems to elude some people. By way of analogy: I support the library, and use it, even though my interests only lead me to tap a minuscule percentage of the collection. But I'd support the library even if I didn't ever step foot in there.

As far as the "pennies from heaven" phrase, it seemed clear to me the poster was making reference to the idea of a serendipitous turn of events. If the measure of a statement is always literal, then discourse is doomed.

 
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Oh come on spinoza, of course

Oh come on spinoza, of course I know the pennies from heaven comment wasn't meant literally. I just don't agree that this is a serendipitous turn of events because that implies that this is money that isn't really needed anywhere else and could easily be spent on yet another new project.

Weren't they just talking about cutting employees hours at the last SB meeting? I don't see where we're so flush that we can just use this "extra" money for another new project.

 
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"New"

That's just it, the Brattleboro skateboard park concept is anything but a "new" project (maybe news to you Rosa) with so many people involved over so many years. It's time is well over due now that an appropriate location will be sought by a formal town committee specifically approved with that charge, so let's just wrap it up with this $300,000, make it a reality that will capture the excitement and productively occupy down time for our youth not engaged in formal team (competitive) sports, without regrets, no looking back, truly a positive town endeavor for the future. It will be here one way or another in some form in some time frame, but could be a much better more spacious park users need to make it safer and worth while all the sooner if the town could pony up what seems to be already rightfully available for this project.

 
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While it may have been a

While it may have been a recreation area in the planning for some time, wasn't the original agreement that a site could be selected and a park built if the organization wanting the park did the fund raising?

I don't remember any agreement at any time that the town would pay for the park. Suddenly because there's a savings in one area, we are going to use that money for something that was never agreed upon.

I don't disagree with you that it would be nice if the town could do it but at a time where the conversation has been cutting back town employees hours I think this is not exactly the time to be taking any cost cutting savings and reallocating it to a skatepark.

 
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True Enough

What you say is true, and the chance this money will be returned for the benefit of the Rec. Dept. is an uphill challenge few are likely to become embroiled in order to secure in enough time. As it is, this sudden stipend of money saved apparently up for grabs to be absorbed into other major projects rolling through( albeit some for infrastructure improvement on a grand scale) has become like the proverbial dangling piñata lowered out of nowhere that everyone wants a piece of, blindly batting to gain access, and open up aiming high so it's contents hopefully fall at their desperate shifting feet as if a gift, but whose birthday is it anyway?. I tell you whose, it like a decade the skate park project has been tucked under the table, although the recent delay of proposed relocation effort is a completely different circumstance addressing the process and proper planning.

The truth being told when considering the overall scheme of things, this minor surplus appearing from an unlikely source, can really only offer up one hard flavorless medicine drop that has to be sugar coated to swallow if not taken with direction. More like a pill it only reveals and makes our town's financial situation all the more obvious emphasizing how hard up we have become to snatch the surplus up in such a manner only temporarily soothes the soreness and hunger pain for a brief moment. Why not make it count for something worth while and tasteful and then look to the actual root of the problem or condition when town budgeting while not defering the skate park project as the sacrificial lamb?.
In this economy it will be harder and harder to raise money when people are strapped for funds as the town coffers find themselves running redder at a deficit, plainly no fault to such an up lifting project as the skate park could be. There's enough disappointment imbued in the present state of affairs, why not make room for one bright spot trying ever so hard to poke through with this amount of money well spent especailly if fate has fallen in our favor

 
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Oh I see, even though the

Oh I see, even though the agreement was never that the town would pay for the park and even though you agree that people and the town are strapped for funds, we should do your project before we cinch up our belts. Once your pet is stroked and taken care of then we can stop spending. Gawd, this is exactly my point as to why taxes here are so out of whack compared to the economic health of the town.

Nice flowery language though. I particularly liked the temporarily soothes the soreness and hunger pain bit but I would caution that referring to a skatepark as a tasteful bright spot trying ever so hard to poke through a sea of disappointment a bit much for even my appetite for overstatement. Really could we just speak some plain English here and put aside the floral word arrangements. It's a skatepark for crying out loud.

 
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I understand that your

I understand that your excitement about the skatepark is sincere and I apologize for any intended or unintended cynicism in my "it's a skatepark" comment. But really if the trend keeps going you'll just have a barren wasteland of concrete obstacles and jumps with no laughing jocular teenagers sailing over and about the challenging jumps at the skatepark because no one with children will be able to afford to live in this lovely little town. It'll be a big barren stretch of concrete with cold winds whistling, tumbleweeds blowing about randomly and a lonely abandoned skateboard perched on one of the jumps waiting for the teenagers to return but they never will because their Ma and Pa can't afford to live here anymore.

 
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Now that's graphic desperodoism

Not a pretty picture, but I suppose an abandoned, lawless town would make for an awesome skate park and I think your on to something if all else fails, especially if I decide to stay and don't have to pay any such taxes at this outpost, like I said we'll get that park one way or another, partner.

 
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It's not a skate park! yet

It's not a skate park FCOL! and with resistance like yours spreading on these pages, the value may never be understood. Do you need balance in your life, well our youth require the same quality of life and not all of our youth fit the mold of a traditional sports life style, which is not to say we aren't grateful to have variety. Whether you brightly perk up and flex your words in a "flowery" fashion as you say or expand on your repertoire of skateboard feats, it's all good exercise except for the somber fact there is no place for skate boarders to safely express themselves in numbers to share, to grow and improve skills. so they are left in a somewhat neglected wilting condition. How many ball fields do we have for that outlet??.It's like having a bat and ball and expected to have fun using them in the confines of your glass house. This would mean nothing to people who could care less about skate boarding but there are so many that do care and certainly the years it has risen as a issue before the town speaks for itself (In English). (BTW my son is the skate boarder, not me, not my sole project but I would love to see him more content and able to use his dusty board for a change) or maybe I should just tie a string to it and pull him down the sidewalk to his mortification then get arrested for not having a parade permit.

Pets in general or pet projects can be therapeutic with the compassion of the right handler and build healthy communities by lifting peoples spirits and connection. Under the right guidance they keep on giving back after the initial investment and benefit society never asking much return except care and enthusiastic support to maintain health, unlike other malfunctioning projects I can think of here in town demanding more and more attention to justify their impetus for existing.

 
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I am not resistant to the

I am not resistant to the idea of a skatepark, I am resistant with the use of town money that exists because of careful and wise spending being used for another and yes, new, project because it is there so we must spend it. I am for skateparks, I am for prudent spending. I don't think changing the skatepark's agreement because this money exists so that the town now pays for it is a good thing at this point in time when we are, I repeat, talking about cutting hours for town employees. None of this means I don't support the idea of a skatepark. I just don't support the idea of spending this money on a skatepark at this time. And yes, new project because you are changing the original plan by incorporating town money now. Period, the end.

 
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Yes, I understand your point

....and it is a commendable one pragmatic to the yankee core. It's just the skate park needs a booster but I guess there's not enough fuel that isn't already watered down to be had from the town that get's lousy gas milage to possibly help on regaining the immediate inertia that could automatically make this park a reality by the summer season. It will happen but it won't this easy I suspect.

 
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Next sentence

You hold the threat of cutting hours out as a cudgel in your argument. Yes it’s lamentable. To have to shave hours, and have to tighten the belt is harsh. Having just had my position excised from the town school budget, my employment eliminated after more years of service than I’ve been trying to get a park here, I do know the agony of it. (fyi-the first phases began in the previous century.) Yet despite my defenestration, I'm still in favor of spending -one-one hundredth of what we're putting into the police station- to get this done.

Going back four iterations with this, and though there never was a deal for the town "to pay for the park", it’s always been series of swells that come and go with differing terms and prospects. And arguably, now more people know about the benefits than ever before.

There’s an actual as well as symbolic value to this motion to re-allocate funds. If any Rep was bold enough to bring an amendment forward- call the motion the ‘skate rider’- I’d be very curious to see how a body that has twice before ratified plans to move forward, would vote.

 
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At the Very Least

At the very least the money should be put aside for the Skating Rink or let the P&R Dept. decide (skate park or pool repair), but if you believe in robbing Poor Peter to pay Privileged Paul off or making it as easy as stealing a sucker out of the puckered mouth of a baby (not that I condone giving candy to infants) and replacing it with a soured pacifier when nobody's looking and the baby doesn't cry, then it works, but sets a poor precedent.

In principle ( although over simplified) it would be like rewarding your young daughter who has carelessly spent her entire months allowance in the first week to add to her beanie baby collection and comes back asking for more because she suddenly finds herself depleted for school supplies, you proceed by then reducing her siblings allowance amounts who do not have such collections and have been accountable saving their extra money to donate to the skate park. In my opinion the money should remain were it was responsibly self generated and stay credited in that location.

 
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"pennies from heaven"....please....

I got to agree with you here Rosa Bonheur.

 
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Whether it's $300,000 or

Whether it's $300,000 or $30,000 the point is that this is the sort of thinking that will send us over the edge because everyone has their pet project and at some point we have to stop.

It is this constant breaking down of projects so they look do-able and then forging ahead time after time after time that has created a tax base that is one of the highest in the nation in a state with a static if not one of the slowest growing economies. It's not that putting that $300,000 back will make all that much of a dent, it's the principle that we need to stop NOW and take a much more prudent and careful approach to projects. I believe there is already a way for anyone who supports the skatepark to make donations and people have donated.

But if you want to look at it your way, let's say there's no way to stop the $14+ million police/fire station project. We put into effect the 1% tax which is supposedly going to garner $600,000 a year. We add that $300,000 to it and you have the first $1 million covered right there. Now I don't think that is the best solution for the project, but considering that the governor just stated that school taxes will have to rise substantially again next year, it would certainly help take some of the burden off of property owners and also renters who will see the tax increases passed along in their rents.

 

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