BARRE TOWN – Local officials want to pare down and hype up the town report.
The plans include adding a folded-up town map that can be removed and hung and potentially removing the town audit.
At its regular Tuesday meeting, the Select Board heard from Jeff Blow, an elected auditor and a member of a group that has worked for a few months on potential changes to the town report. The report is the responsibility of the elected auditors so the board didn’t need to approve anything, but Blow wanted to get feedback from the board about the changes.
He said the group received 130 responses to a survey it sent out looking for what residents wanted out of the town report. The town report is spiral-bound and 6 inches by 9 inches. Blow said residents like that size as opposed to going the typical 8 inches by 11 inches.
Blow said people like the size of the reports inside the book, but they wanted more graphics to make it easier to read instead of pages of text.
Blow said the group has had a lively discussion about the audits included in the report.
“The audits are very complicated. They are very difficult to understand for the average person, and they’re lengthy. They eat up a lot of pages in your town report,” he said.
Blow suggested taking out the audits and replacing them with figures showing how much was budgeted for a certain fund, how much was spent and the difference between the two figures to make it easier for residents to follow. The full audits would still be available on the town’s website.
Blow said a suggestion had been made to include a town map with the report. He said those who responded to the survey heavily supported the idea.
Blow said he’s working on getting a map made up for the report while trying to keep the costs down. He said the map could be inserted by hand into the report or it could attached the book and easily removed.
Board member Bob Nelson said he loved the idea of a map. He wanted the map distributed around town so people can see where they can go and what they can do.
Blow said the map could identify some of the villages in town.
“If you grew up on Trow Hill and you lived on Trow Hill all of your life, if you come over into East Barre, Websterville, Graniteville you likely don’t know one from the other or which one you’re in,” Blow said.
He said the map could also identify the playgrounds and bike paths in town. Blow said there’s only so much that can be fit onto the map while keeping it easy to read. He didn’t have a cost estimate for the map because it hasn’t been fleshed out yet and he said size will drive much of the cost.
Keeping with the subject of cost, Blow said he wants to remove much of the white space in the report in order to reduce pages, which also reduces the cost to print the reports. He said he could likely remove around 20 pages from the report just by eliminating white space.
Board members talked about getting town reports into the hands of more residents. They said some have reported they don’t know where to get the reports, and one resident asked if he had to pay for one. The board discussed promoting the report on Front Porch Forum multiple times to let residents know where they can get them. Blow also suggested creating a separate tab on the town’s website so people can easily find the current town report and the reports from past years.
Board member Jack Mitchell said residents need to take some personal responsibility for finding the town report on their own. Board member Norma Malone pointed out town reports are something unique to this part of the country so someone new to Vermont might not even know what the report is or what it contains. Board members discussed getting the town report to those who just moved into town via realtors as a kind of welcome to the town.