As another merger vote is happening soon and the same voices are being heard over and over again I think it is important to have some unbiased facts presented to voters. I am not able to vote in this election as I am a college student in Ohio and registered there instead. However, I grew up in the Town and saw the school district merger happen while I was in high school. Seeing the community become further divided and the merger talk become more degrading and attack based is disappointing to say the least. I will reference no people in this piece and the hate going towards members on both sides is extremely distasteful and uncalled for.
So what does merging actually look like and what happens if we don't merge? Most lawn signs point to either the taxes or the one community idea. First, taxes: they will go up, merger or no merger. If merger passes, taxes will likely go up for Town folks and for Village folks, just at a slower rate than the Town because taxes also increase every year due to inflation. The Villagers already pay a tax for the Village and a tax for the Town. An individual Villager currently pays more in taxes than a Town resident with the same value property. With a merger of the Town and Village, Town taxes will need to go up more quickly than the Village to equal out the difference. However, they will not equalize immediately. They will equalize slowly over a period of 12 years. There will likely still be portions of the Village with higher taxes (ie where their sidewalks get plowed).
If we do not merge, many things can happen. Likely, the status quo will not stay, the Village currently has a vote for separation if the merger does not pass. With full separation, taxes for the Town will increase far more quickly and likely in a greater amount. This is because the Town would lose about 42% of its tax base (those in the Village) and will only have the remaining Town residents to rely on. The other possibility, which seems increasingly unlikely, is for the Village to dissolve, essentially forcing a merger anyway. This will also increase taxes faster than merger would. Due to the current attitudes in the Village this is an unlikely outcome. That covers the tax issue.
For the one community idea: This idea is basically that no matter if one comes from the Town or the Village, they come from Essex. All our mailing addresses are Essex Junction, VT, 05452. We are one town in all but legalities. The main argument against this is the desire for local control. The Village doesn't have any gravel roads so why should they make decisions regarding those in the Town? The Town doesn't plow most of their sidewalks so why should they make decisions regarding plowing in the Village? This is a completely reasonable idea as is the idea that we are one community and stronger if we work together. The main fallacy with this argument against merger is the idea that the Town folks don't use the services of the Village or the Village doesn't use the services of the Town. When there is a fire in the Town or the Village, both fire departments show up. There is currently only one police department. We all can use both libraries. We share with each other because we are in many ways one community.
To conclude, if you are voting no on merger primarily to minimize your tax increase, that will at best make little difference and likely be a worse option for keeping Town taxes down. Voting for or against the merger for community unity or local control is really what this comes down to. But no matter what happens, our kids will go to the same high school, Town folks will still go to Maple Street park, and Village folks will still go to Indian Brook. We will still be neighbors.