Brandon (re)votes town budget
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | April 30,2013
BRANDON — Residents have the opportunity to voice their opinion regarding the town’s expenses when they go to the polls today in a special election to revote the budget.
Prompted by a successful petition campaign, Brandon residents will gather at the Neshobe Elementary School to vote on the town’s $3,292,280, which was approved on Town Meeting Day by an eight-vote margin, 428-420.
The results early last month fell well within the vote reconsideration margin — almost immediately triggering the petition campaign. By the end of March, the town clerk had received a petition with sufficient voter signatures — 564, or 20 percent, of registered voters — to move forward with a revote.
Brandon’s budget went up about 6 percent from last year’s $3,105,900 figure and included a 10.2 percent increase in taxes. Residents will raise $2,480,080 of the budget in taxes, or $233,030 more than this fiscal year.
The increases, in part, can be attributed to the addition of a fourth person in Department of Public Works, which was eliminated several years ago to save money. Also, the town’s front-end loader will be replaced after more than 20 years — costing the town $30,000 a year for five years.
Third item attributed to the increase was the change in the recreation director position, going from part time to full time. Other increases in the budget include health care costs and town employee cost of living.
In numbers, the 10 percent increase equals 0.70 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value, or about $129.50 a year, for an average Brandon home valued at $185,000.
Select Board Chairman Devon Fuller said residents need to understand that even if the budget is voted down, it does not mean they will automatically no longer have an increase in taxes. He said Monday that many of the increases are signed contractual agreements that cannot be changed.
Fuller said they are also anticipating a $69,000 short fall in revenue, which forced them to look at other ways to raise the funds.
“The rec department is the only one that can create a revenue,” he said. “A rec department that is run well can pretty much pay for itself — it will take some years.”
Fuller said the 10 percent increase will not happen every year and the town’s budget will fluctuate, as it has done before.
“I hope people understand that to maintain the (town’s) infrastructure, we need to add to it,” he said.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, to rescind the budget today’s vote will need a simple majority with at least 286 people voting against it. This number represents two-thirds of the original “yes” vote of 428.
The polls at Neshobe Elementary School will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.