Essex Selectboard discusses tax impacts of merging town, village

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 1:18 AM EDT
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ESSEX, Vt. (WCAX) - Leaders in Essex are weighing the financial impacts of joining the two communities of Essex or separating them.

At Monday night’s Essex Selectboard meeting, Essex finance director Sarah Macy explained the tax impacts of merging the town of Essex and the village of Essex Junction versus separating them. Under a merger, Macy estimates the tax burden of someone living in a home valued at $280,000 in the town of Essex would jump from $1,400 to $1,700. For those living in the village of Essex Junction with the same home value, taxes would decrease from $2,300 to $1,800.

When it comes to separation, there are still questions on how services would be split and paid for. That includes the largest budget of $4.5 million for police.

“In this analysis, I assumed that we are going to split it 50/50 -- so, based on population,” said Macy. “But the town outside the village is the larger geographical area. So, does that need to be weighted into the calculation? Is it the number of calls? What about density of population?”

Macy says another option is funding the department based on each community’s amount of taxable properties, also known as the grand list. That means the village would pay 42% and the town would pay 58%. “We are now in a situation where this separation costs essentially the same as merger, whereas before, in that 50/50 based on population, it was less to the town outside the village and less of a benefit to the village,” Macy said.

Now some residents aren’t sure how they want to proceed, while others still have their minds set.

“I think we need a more creative solution. I think we need to be two together. Separate but still together,” said Ken Signorello.

“What do we want? I want my taxes fair,” said one man.

“What I’ve wanted has varied over the years,” said Gabrielle Smith. “What I want now is to stop paying for things that I don’t access and to stop paying taxes for things that feel to be unfairly taxed on us as village residents.”

Selectboard Chair Elaine Haney says the Selectboard is still looking over the draft charter and they hope to be done by the middle of October. Their goal is to seek feedback from the public in November and make final tweaks before they hold a vote on whether to put it on the March ballot.

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