BY ABAGAEL GILES
BRANDON—On Tuesday, March 5, 710 voters came to the polls in Brandon to pass the budget and decide the only contested selectboard race.
Selectboard members Seth Hopkins and Brian Coolidge were re-elected after running unopposed for their seats. Tim Guiles was the victor in a two-way race against Dennis Reisenweaver for an open three-year seat. Guiles received 400 votes to 242 for Reisenweaver.
Additionally, Bill Moore ran unopposed for the position of Town Moderator and was elected to the position Tuesday. Similarly, Courtney Satz ran unopposed and was elected Trustee of Public Funds, while Carol Fjeld ran unopposed and was re-elected Library Trustee.
On Monday, March 4, 92 Brandon voters gathered at the Town Hall to vote on whether to exempt two properties within the town boundaries from municipal and education property taxes for the next five years.
Voters also heard presentations by town officers regarding the town budget for fiscal year 2019-2020. The $3,190,855 budget represented a 0.92 percent increase in expenditures over last year; taxes will be $2,652,555 will be raised by property taxes and was passed by Australian ballot voting at the Town Hall on Tuesday by a count of 449-250.
Among the notable changes in this year’s budget are the creation of a new position within the town staff — assistant to the recreation director. The new position does not present the town with additional cost. Instead, it will be largely paid for by allowing recreation director Bill Moore, who has also been serving as economic development director for the Segment 6 project, to charge the state for project management services.
At Monday’s meeting, voters unanimously agreed to grant the Brandon Area Rescue Squad exemption from the municipal property tax and municipal education tax in accordance with the exemption clause for “charitable and fraternal organizations” as set forth in the town’s code. The Brandon Masonic Association’s request for the same designation spurred debate on the floor.
“The Masons are a fraternal organization that only offers membership to men… Is it really in the best interest in this day and age, with the budget we have for our town to offer the Masons that exemption?” asked Amy Menard.
Kathleen Rausenburg said that women can join the Order of the Eastern Star, an appendant body to the freemasons, which has a strong presence in Brandon.
“The Masons have done a lot for our community. Every Christmas, they bring me a lovely, much appreciated basket of food,” said Priscilla McKeighan, as an example of the services the Brandon Masonic Association offers local seniors.
“If we aren’t exempt,” said member Harry Hunt, “we won’t be able to do all we do now. I can say that if we are exempted, all of those dollars will go right back into this town.”
After a close voice vote, the Brandon Masonic Association was offered tax-exempt status.
Town manager David Atherton also offered a breakdown of spending allocations for the 2018-2019 tax bill. According to Atherton, 58 percent of tax funds levied during the 2018-2019 fiscal year will be allocated to the area’s schools and 34 percent will fund the town budget, with smaller funding pools such as the fire district (four percent) seeing the rest of the tax dollars.