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What will city of Essex Junction mean for Essex Town?

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 3:41 PM EDT
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ESSEX TOWN, Vt. (WCAX) - After passing through the Legislature, the charter change to create the city of Essex Junction is headed to the governor’s desk. But what does the future look like for the town of Essex in terms of taxes and getting along with their neighbors?

“I think we all just need to go on living our lives as we have before without the constraint of this artificial boundary and we need to move forward and do the best for all of us,” said Andy Watts, the chair of the Essex Selectboard.

Watts is looking forward-- forward to a town of Essex without 42% of the tax base in Essex Junction, and a projected 20% increase in their tax rate starting in the fiscal year 2024. But he says that’s comparable to the same tax rate increase that a merger would have brought, too.

“In the merger situation, there was a plan to spread that over 12 years. It would have taken 12 years to do that 20% increase. This is going to be a step function hopefully smoothed out potentially over two, three years if we can... figure out the way to fund that,” Watts said.

So far there’s been no discussion of cutting services, but they’re also not creating new positions. They’re going to ask residents what they can afford.

Next month there is a strategic planning meeting to look at potentially using American Rescue Plan Act funds or rainy day money to help alleviate the sudden tax increase.

“There will be some folks who it’s going to be very painful for, people who are on fixed incomes or people that are on no incomes, it could be challenging, very, very challenging for them and we don’t have a solution for that. There’s no income sensitivity to municipal taxes, so that’s something we are really struggling with,” Watts said.

Residents like Irene Wrenner who supported the split say the tax increase is worth the benefit of having more control.

“Certainly we’ve seen the demand for housing here. It’s not like people aren’t eager to come here at any cost but it would be sad to see people leave because of the tax burden. I understand that people may leave because of it but it’s not unexpected; this has been talked about for a very long time,” Wrenner said.

Another longtime Essex resident, Steve Jaborek, said it’s time to move on.

“Even if I have to pay more taxes I’d rather have it separated. We came to this point, I said separate and forget it, and let’s go our separate ways,” Jaborek said.

The charter change is not on yet governor’s desk, but we’re told he intends to sign it and create Vermont’s 10th city.

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