Friday October 12, 2012

The Board of Directors of Building a Better Brattleboro opposes the proposed 1-percent Local Option Sales Tax. We implore of town meeting representatives to consider this position when reviewing the proposal to fund the improvements to the fire and police facilities in town.

Giving consideration to Tropical Storm Irene's effects on the downtown economy, the Brooks House fire and subsequent vacancy of that building and the over arching longer-term effects of the economic recession that began in 2008, changing the habits of the shopping public perhaps forever, we are very concerned that the timing for such a strategy is particularly challenging. We feel that the prospect of an increase in a sales tax at this time is incomprehensible.

We consider the following in taking this position:

-- It is inherent in the mission of BaBB to foster a positive downtown environment in support of our businesses and geared toward economic vitality. BaBB believes this tax would adversely affect a significant portion of our downtown businesses.

-- Though other area towns have successfully adopted a local option sales tax, we feel that it is important to point out that those towns have one very different characteristic from Brattleboro; none of them are located on a border with a state that has no sales tax. Therefore, to justify the tax by citing other Vermont cities and towns that have done so is inappropriate.

-- A study conducted by the Northern Economic Consulting group and released on November 16, 2010 found towns along the Connecticut River corridor have suffered due to New Hampshire's lack of a sales tax.

-- Before 1969, when Vermont implemented its sales tax, per capita retail sales in the two areas were identical. Now times have changed, according to Art Woolf of Northern Economic Consulting Group, "There's been absolutely no growth in retail in Vermont despite increases in people's income over that time period," said Art Woolf of Northern Economic Consulting. "Vermont is only 60 percent of what New Hampshire is. Every time Vermont has increased its sales tax, the gap has grown larger."

-- If Vermont had maintained the pre-1970 status quo with New Hampshire, there would be 3,000 more retail jobs and $540 million more retail sales in Vermont's border counties.

-- It is suggested that tourists and other visitors don't mind paying the extra tax and in fact don't even take note of it. BaBB notes it is important to remember that not just tourists shop in Brattleboro. In a market study conducted by Arnett Muldrow and Associates for BaBB in downtown Brattleboro in the fall of 2010, it was noted that 66 percent of shoppers in downtown Brattleboro were local people with 42 percent coming from Brattleboro zip codes. It was also noted that our population is aging and as such more likely to be living on fixed incomes. One percent may not impact the dollars spent by tourists here, however it certainly may impact the local shopper's decision as to whether to cross the river to New Hampshire.

-- One argument in favor of this tax suggests that there were no adverse affects from the increase in the rooms and meals tax of a few years ago but this too cannot be compared as our neighbor to the east has a comparable tax.

-- And finally, this additional tax gives online shoppers just one more reason to continue shopping online. Online competition may in fact be the greatest threat to Main Street business that exists today.

The Board of Directors of BaBB urges the Town Representatives to vote against the imposition of this new sales tax.

The BaBB Board of Directors includes Bob Woodworth, President, Christopher Grotke, Allyson Wendt, Rob Prohaska, Alex Gyori, Bill Crowley, David Brown, Sean Conley, Kate O'Connor, Jim Verzino, Donna Simons and Larry Bloch.