Flyers regarding the merger vote are being placed on doorknobs throughout the Village. We know the flyer is supported by the Village resident whose address is on the flyer and a woman from the Town outside the Village who is placing these flyers around the Village. Unfortunately, Vermont is not immune to the tactics that are often employed at the national level - lies and omissions. But we know our Village voters are smarter than this. We seek out facts from trusted sources and make our own decisions. We are providing the information below, not because we are advocating for or against merger, but because we feel it is important to have the facts. As a former Trustee who worked on the merger issue and an engaged community volunteer who has lived in both communities, we are concerned that this important vote is yet again being usurped by someone acting only in their best interest.
On September 28, Sarah Macy, Finance Director of the Town of Essex, presented financial information at the request of 27 residents. We urge residents to watch this meeting. The facts are:
• A village homeowner, with a home valued at $280,000, pays approximately $900 more a year in municipal taxes than a similar homeowner in the Town outside the Village.
• Fire, library, police, manager, recreation, zoning, water service, and sanitation were all established in the Village first. When the Town outside the Village decided they had grown enough to want these services, they created their own, even though we could have worked together. Since the Village residents are also residents of the Town of Essex, when these duplicate services were created, we were taxed.
• The voters of both municipalities have allowed consolidation of departments over the years, but Village residents still pay for services we don't receive. For instance, we pay 42% of the Town of Essex capital fund, while a vast majority of those funds are not spent in the Village.
• All 5 Trustee has voted to support this merger plan.
Will Taxes Go Down?
Yes. The merger plan provides a 12-year process for lowering taxes in the Village, which will increase the taxes in the Town. We know, 12 years is a long time, and we have already paid more than we should for many years. The 12 years coincides with the Village bond debt that will have to remain with the Village, and ensures that the Town residents are not hit with an immediate $300-$400 increase. Will taxes across the municipality continue to rise as salaries and service costs increase, yes, but the Village residents will not be paying twice as they are today.
Which Board Will Govern?
A new board will be created, with the process dictated by the merger plan, and will include people elected from both the Village and the Town outside the Village. The merger plan provides the details.
Can We Afford to Extend Services?
Both communities are paying for services today, the Village is paying twice for some of those services. There are no services to extend unless we as voters choose to vote to add services.
Do We Retain Our Assets?
As a new combined community, we bring our assets together.
Will Our Identity Vanish?
This issue is important to us because we know how special the Village is. Yes, the Village of Essex Junction will cease to exist as we will create a new charter with the Town of Essex, but our identity will continue to exist, and we hope will continue to thrive. It is very normal to have a town with a downtown, suburban and rural area. We know a name is not what makes a community, it is the residents.
Will We See Efficiencies?
Merging Village and Town departments can reduce costs by reducing duplication. To date, consolidation of various departments has saved Town and Village residents over two and a half million dollars. Presently, without merger, municipal staff are overseeing two budgets, two audits, two offices, two websites, two payrolls, two employee personnel manuals and three contracts. It stands to reason that merger would provide efficiencies in all departments. We also expect changes that may not be reflected in dollars but are important such as finding smarter and better ways to deploy resources of all kinds.
What Will A “Yes” Outcome Mean?
A “Yes” outcome means that Village voters are in favor of merging and will give Village trustees a clear direction to proceed with merger efforts. We have heard many people advocate for separation. Separation would require its own plan, a vote and legislative approval. Separation is not currently on the table.
Additional information can be found at: https://www.essexjunction.org/news/merger
Please feel free to reach out to either of us with additional questions. We appreciate that this is a hard decision, so please ensure that you trust your sources of information.