Letters to the editor

Water, sewer, taxes. Help.

As a small business owner and a resident, I am struggling to pay my taxes and water and sewer bills, while I watch valuable services, such as road maintenance being cut. I was relieved to see that my sewer bill went down, but then discovered it didn’t, because we now are paying quarterly rather than semi-annually. Tricky.

At Town Meeting a couple of years ago a $7.5 million police station was voted for along with the customary annual salary increase for town employees. We are paying for a new fire truck and our water and sewer infrastructure is going to need a major upgrade. The selectboard has recently endorsed a $1.7 million renovation of the town offices, which I assume will be part of the budget voted on in February next year.

Town salaries are the biggest part of our property tax expense. The Town Manager and the selectboard recently negotiated a 3.5-4 percent yearly raise for union employees for the next several years, which is now frozen into the budget for the next several years. Customarily, after the Town Manager negotiates a raise for the union employees, he comes to town meeting and tells voters it is only fair to give the non-union employees, including him, the same raise. When town employees get a 3.5 percent salary increase, their retirement is also increased 3.5 percent.

If town citizens had limitless cash and the same raises that town employees get, we could afford to give our hard-working town employees raises and pension increases each year. The Town Manager threatens at town meetings that if staff doesn’t get a raise that services will have to be cut, when it is the exact opposite, that services are being cut to pay staff salaries.

I am not saying that town staff doesn’t do a good job or doesn’t deserve a salary increase. Don’t we all? However, Essex citizens are struggling to pay their taxes and water/sewer bills and all their other expenses. At the same time we aren’t getting the same income and retirement increases that town staff have been receiving from our tax dollars for decades. It seems like our town government and Town Manager are disconnected and more concerned for town staff than for the economic plight of town citizens.

Sharon Zukowski,
Essex

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Reviewing the 45-cent tax on gas

At first it’s difficult to determine exactly what Emerson Lynn is referring to in last week’s editorial: “Are they nuts? State about to slap $.45 cent tax on gas.” But it is certainly not what the title implies. Lynn doesn’t state who “they” are other than “several Vermont environmental groups and key policy makers” so it’s not easy to get more information. Though the title states “about to slap,” the text of the editorial says “It will not happen.” So why write about it? The legislature is not in session, no such bill has been proposed and the governor is more worried about keeping his job than slapping on new taxes.

A third of the way through the editorial we find that the tax is actually part of a carbon tax system that Lynn says he may support on a national or regional level, but not on the state level. A recent Burlington Free Press article (“Vermont advocate groups push for carbon tax” dated Nov. 13) states that the chair of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee says he is drafting carbon tax legislation and will push it in the upcoming session. That’s a far cry from having it near implementation.

Some Internet searching finds that Energy Independent Vermont (a coalition of groups trying to cut Vermont carbon emissions) recently released a study and is kicking off a campaign for a statewide carbon tax. The funds obtained by the tax would be re-cycled back into the economy. The study provides a detailed discussion of how that may increase economic activity for Vermont. Lynn disagrees with that analysis. The 45-cent per gallon tax Lynn says is “about to be slapped” on Vermonters would actually begin at 4.5 cents in 2017 and increase each of the following 10 years to the resulting 45 cents in 2027. That’s just one of the scenarios in the study and not, as yet, part of any legislation.

It is my sincere hope that during the next legislative session the governor and the legislature engage in a thoughtful review of Vermont’s tax system in an atmosphere of intelligent investigation. Editorials with inflammatory headlines and few supported facts or references do not help that process. A carbon tax may well be bad for Vermont but let’s discuss it openly and honestly.

Curt Taylor
Colchester

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Full of light

I want to send out a special thank you to the Essex Junction Parks and Rec department for the truly magical sight I witnessed on my drive home at Maple Street Park. The lit-up trees are spectacular! What a wonderful way to start the holidays with a colorful display in one of our community parks. Just one more reason I love living in Essex Junction, Vermont. Happy holidays!

Chrissy Frankenhoff
Essex Junction