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Colchester still weighing options following legal loss - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Colchester still weighing options following legal loss

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COLCHESTER, Vt. -

One week after a court ruling, Colchester's selectboard members said they still haven't decided if they'll appeal. If the result stands, the town may be forced to pay back millions to cottage and camp owners.

Cottage and camp owners won a lawsuit against the town of Colchester last week. A judge agreed with their double-taxation claim, and has ordered them repaid. At Tuesday's selectboard meeting, Colchester residents wanted to know how that would affect the books.

"Do we have an idea at this point how much it actually could affect us?" asked Joe Purvis. The selectboard didn't say how much it will cost to pay back the 43 building owners but offered to get back to him later.

The plaintiffs only lease the lakeside property their homes are on, but had been taxed for their prime locations, as had the land owners. More could come forward following last week's ruling. Ultimatley, that might cost Colchester millions in returned tax dollars.

"I was always concerned with the (tax) methodology," said Colchester resident Pam Loranger, "as they make the joke, it's not the money, it's the principal, but in this case it really is the principle."

Purvis and Loranger encouraged the board not to appeal the Superior Court's decision if it will only cost the cash-strapped town more money. "Just keep in mind not throwing good money after bad," said Purvis.

Selectboard members said they still haven't decided what they'll do. "Right now our main concern is that we have all of our 'I's dotted and our 'T's crossed before we make a decision," said Selectwoman Renn Niquette.

Boardmembers said two thirds of the tax dollars at issue in the lawsuit would actually go to the state's education fund, not municipal coffers. Many said they're frustrated that the state didn't join their fight.

"Since the court decision we've been asking the state what's their position and will they help us," said Town Manager Al Voegele, "and to this date as of this afternoon, we have still yet to get a reply from them."

The town is likely to makeup for lost funds by increasing the property tax on area land-owners in the future. As part of the court ruling, the judge contends the property has been undervalued. However, the town cannot enact higher tax rates retroactively.

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