The autumn merger survey was publicized mostly online. Residents without computers likely didn’t know about it. Paper-based surveys were available only in municipal buildings, if one knew where to look. In the end, only those motivated to respond took the survey. Therefore, the results aren’t statistically valid.
To get results from which conclusions could be drawn and extended to the entire population, consultants should have conducted a random sample of the population that counts – registered voters.
People who did take this survey were forced to answer questions assuming merger, even if they don’t agree with that direction for our town.
As for the survey results, just 48.46% or 409 of the 844 survey respondents supported merger. But instead of considering alternatives to merger, such as “Separate and Share”, which makes taxation more appropriate to users of services, our elected officials continue to try to ram merger down 22,000 throats. Why?
While merger isn’t the will of the majority of survey respondents, it is the platform that office holders from the Village have campaigned on for years.
Elected officials have pushed for merged budgets as a balm for Village tax woes, even though merger would tax Town-outside-the-Village residents for services that they never voted for.
I can understand a Village resident feeling overtaxed when learning, too late, that they’ll pay taxes to two municipalities. I can understand a Village resident, who moved here after the IBM funds dried up, wondering how expenses ever reached current levels.
However, if a Village resident is upset after being repeatedly told that others aren’t paying “their fair share”, then I dare say you’ve been hoodwinked. Village residents vote for the Village budget they want to support each April. Town residents (half of whom live in the Village) vote for the Town budget they want to support each March.
Our elected officials speak soothing words about how everything will be better if budgets are merged. At the same time, they are not being transparent about other outcomes, such as reduced access to limited shared resources or anticipated expenses to provide high-level services to twice the clientele.
We need elected officials to be fair and honest with all Essex residents, both inside and outside the Village. This is especially true for Selectboard members who are voting more like Village Trustees rather than representing the interests of the Town as a whole.
They can start by presenting positives and negatives of the Tax Shift they call Merger, as well as alternatives. Then they might elaborate on the plan to extend Village services to the TOV.
Finally, they can reveal expenses they expect to share but haven’t talked about, such as the Village’s $11 million need for capital improvements.
I’m eager for a taste of transparency.