Residents weigh in on possible Essex, Essex Junction merger

Published: Oct. 28, 2019 at 4:38 AM EDT
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The Essex Selectboard and Essex Junction Village trustees are meeting Tuesday to go over the results of a survey asking people if the two should merge.

It's a question debated since 1958. The town and the village of Essex currently have their own governments and about half of the population live in each.

The survey provides information Essex officials will consider when making decisions about the merger. A total of 844 residents out of 22,000 responded to the survey, about half inside and half outside the village.

The survey shows that a little less than half of Essex residents are in favor of the merger, with nearly two-thirds in the village in favor and less than half outside the village in favor.

It says those residents generally support unifying the community and equalizing taxes.

On the other hand, most opponents say they're concerned about tax increases.

Under a merger, property taxes for residents outside the village will most likely go up and taxes for village residents will go down.

Essex officials say they've known tax changes are the biggest point of contention.

"There's $3.5 million raised to run the village, and those $3.5 million would end up getting spread across the entire population, the entire town. The decrease in the village is larger than the increase in the town because the increase would also be paid by the village residents 'cause they are also residents of the town," said Andy Watts, Essex town select board.

Watts is on the subcommittee reviewing resident input to create a model that will show how Essex government would work under a merger.

He says the biggest benefit of a merger would be the consolidation of services and recent consolidations are what sparked the decision to vote.