Petition forces Brattleboro budget re-vote


BRATTLEBORO -- A special townwide Australian ballot vote will be held for the registered voters of Brattleboro to weigh in on the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget.

A petition was handed in to Town Clerk Annette Cappy at 4 p.m. Tuesday, one hour before the deadline, forcing the re-vote for the $16,069,625 million General Fund Budget that was approved by Town Meeting Representatives at the annual meeting on March 22.

The petition had to be handed in within 10 days of the Representative Town Meeting.

The town charter allows for the re-vote if at least 5 percent of the registered voters, or at least 50 Town Meeting Representatives, call for re-vote.

Town Meeting Representative Spoon Agave delivered the petition to Cappy with the signatures of 56 town meeting reps.

He also handed in a petition with about 140 signatures, but Cappy did not have time to verify the citizen signatures before closing her office for the day.

It will cost the town about $2,000 to hold the Australian ballot vote, which Cappy said will probably be held at the Municipal Center.

The Selectboard members now have 14 days to set a date for the vote, and the date they set has to be within 10 days of scheduling the vote.

If voters reject the 2015 budget, then the Selectboard will meet again to come up with a new budget, which will then go before Town Meeting Representatives for another vote.

That vote has to be scheduled within 30 to 40 days

Agave said the drive to gather enough signatures came together quickly over the past few days.

Agave said he received phone calls before the weekend from three different Town Meeting Representatives who were each trying to gather signatures independently, without knowing that the other reps were also working on a petition.

"There is a general feeling that the Selectboard does not appreciate the financial difficulties that many people in town have found themselves in," Agave said after Cappy verified the petition.

"The Selectboard put this budget together and there should be more discussion about it by the public."

Agave made a motion from the floor of Town Meeting to reduce the budget by about $600,000 to slow down the $14.1 million police-fire project.

He said if voters turn down the budget at the special vote then the board would have to remove some money and reassess the police-fire project, though voters cannot direct line item spending.

Town Meeting Representatives approved the police-fire project at special October 2012 meeting.

A local option tax that would have raised about $600,000 to help pay for the project was turned down at that meeting in 2012, and then Town Meeting Representatives again rejected the option tax on March 22.

Even though he thinks there are aspects of the project that do have to be taken on, Agave said the town should be able to move ahead with a renovation project that addresses the health and safety concerns for much less money.

"When Town Meeting Reps approved the project, they were trapped. It was either up or down," Agave said. "The payments on this project are going to be the biggest single line item in our budget for 20 years. There should be more than one choice."


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