Barre faces budget vote

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(Host) The city of Barre is facing another budget vote today. Three previous proposals were defeated.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the vote comes only hours before the city will run out of money.

(Zind) It appears that never before has a Vermont city faced the start of a new fiscal year without the money to operate. Carol Dawes is a Barre City councilwoman.

(Dawes) “We’re facing unknown territory. There is no precedent for a Vermont community having to deal with having no budget at the beginning of their fiscal year. We’ve talked with the Secretary of State’s office. We’ve talked with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns , asking their advice, saying:’ is there a roadmap for what you do?’ And there isn’t.”

(Zind) At midnight tonight, the city of Barre will enter the new fiscal year without a budget, unless voters who go to the polls today approve a spending plan. They’ve voted ‘no’ three times since March town meeting.

(Dawes) “We’re kind of referring to it as the Perfect Storm. We’ve got a number of issues that are happening in our community and some are unique to Barre and some are not. But here in Barre, three years ago the voters approved the construction of a new public safety building to house police fire and ambulance. And that building is nearing completion and the bill is coming due.”

(Zind) The public safety building has been a controversial city project and accounts for the lion’s share of the tax increase. Barre officials say they’ve eliminated positions and cut back on worker hours to trim the budget and they’re hopeful the new plan will pass. Two weeks ago, the budget failed by only two votes.

In the meantime, city officials are making contingency plans to borrow money to keep essential city services operating. Reginald Abare is acting City Manager.

(Abare) “We just aren’t going to turn the light off and lock the door. People are still going to be staffing some departments to some degree. Obviously the ambulances are still going to run. The fire department is still going out with the fire truck. The police are going to respond. The potholes go unattended unless it’s a real liability out there.”

(Zind) Officials are hoping voters will turn out today. They’re concerned that fewer than twenty percent of the city’s registered voters have gone to the polls in previous budget votes.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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