What's Left

What are we left with?

State laws presently offer very little to municipal governments for revenue sources. We are essentially limited to property taxes and various fees for services. It is often difficult to assess additional user fees when the base tax rate is so high - residents feel they’ve already paid handsomely for something through their taxes and balk at added fees.

Without some major policy change in the state, communities like Montpelier and the others mentioned earlier will continue to fight a difficult battle. Eventually services and maintenance will wane, property owners will let their buildings deteriorate to avoid higher assessments and rental space will become unaffordable. Traditional downtowns and center communities are at as much risk from inadequate tax policy as they are from “sprawl”. One could argue that such tax policy is one of the major forces behind “sprawl”.

Cities like ours need to look for broader revenue raising mechanisms that provide funds from non-residents who use services. In 2004, the Council proposed a local sales tax and rooms/meals tax that would have raised $535,000 in local revenues plus an additional $69,000 in PILOT payments. That proposal was rejected by voters so the city is left scrambling for other ideas within a very narrow legal framework. Surely people in nearby towns directly benefit from their proximity to Montpelier and Barre, why shouldn’t they contribute to the well being of those cities? There are many ideas which need to be considered at the state level in order to keep our traditional community centers viable. Unfortunately it is the state legislature which is empowered to make these decisions, not the local residents.

In the meantime, Montpelier officials will continue to advocate for full state tax payment, seek to develop the grand list and keep expenses in line. We will continue meeting community priorities like high service levels, support to the downtown, completion and maintenance of public facilities and an excellent quality of life. Montpelier, Barre and comparable communities have a tough challenge. As always, please feel free to call me at 802-223-9502 or email William Fraser, City Manager if you have questions or comments.