Letter: More information needed on Y, town arrangement
To the Editor:
Bennington officials and the Berkshire Family YMCA have been shuffling local tax dollars under the table.
At a Select Board meeting last November, we were told we would be paying Jessie Rumlow from the Y $43,000 this year to be the interim director for the Recreation and Senior Center departments. Town Manager Stuart Hurd stated town employees would carry out their duties under the direction of Ms. Rumlow. That means the two departments we pay $700,000 for this year are being managed by a nonprofit from Massachusetts.
Mr. Hurd also stated that all payroll functions would remain the same this year. In 2020, staffing would be looked at and it would be decided who are YMCA employees.
This is a big issue. There is no YMCA in Bennington. These employees will always be town employees. The taxpayers didn't pay for the YMCA employees in Bennington 50 years ago. The Y paid their own employees.
But town officials and the Y couldn't wait until next year. This year, the Y has been paying two full-time recreation center employees, claiming that they are Y employees. The Y then bills the town office. The town reimburses the Y but the money doesn't come out of the recreation budget.
Next year, any town employee who is called a Y employee can be shipped off to work at the Pittsfield or North Adams YMCA when needed.
Is the Berkshire YMCA claiming to any state or federal officials that they are paying for employees in Bennington?
The Berkshire Y has no management agreement with the city of North Adams or Pittsfield. City officials there are smart enough not to give up control of local taxpayer funded departments to be "managed" by a nonprofit organization.
Many organizations, such as Meals on Wheels, are struggling for funding. Why should they have to compete with a Massachusetts nonprofit for the limited dollars that are available at the local and state level in Vermont?
It's appalling the lack of details and specific costs we have been provided about the Y takeover. Many of the groups who want to bring the Y to Bennington don't pay a dollar to the town budget — they are also tax exempt.
Will the Y charge the town budget or the school budget a management fee for afterschool programs? The Pittsfield Y charges parents $94 per child per week. How many people can afford that?
The Bennington Select Board needs to to end their public relations propaganda. We're tired of hearing about big dreams and plans. Our property and school taxes are ridiculous. Water and sewer bills continue to climb. We now have a local poverty level of at least 25 percent. Bennington is officially broke.
For 40 years, citizens have had the right to vote each year on nonprofits receiving local tax dollars. Before our town recreation and senior center departments get outsourced to the Berkshire Family YMCA, get it on a ballot for voters to decide.
The Select Board needs to start representing citizens again, especially local taxpayers.
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