Brattleboro board heads to state capitol for tax help


BRATTLEBORO -- The Selectboard is heading to Montpelier next week to meet with Gov. Peter Shumlin and state and local law makers.

The board wants to talk about the town's ongoing challenge to control the municipal tax rate while funding infrastructure and emergency response services for residents and for people who come in to town every day to work, shop, visit, or seek medical and counseling help.

Selectboard members are planning to go to Montpelier Wednesday, March 26.

Town officials are still finalizing the details about the board's visit to the capital, but the day likely will include a meeting with the governor and with legislators to talk about the financial challenges property owners in economic hubs such as Brattleboro face in providing services for the town.

"At this point we hope to discuss issues related to the significant property tax burden we face in Brattleboro as a regional economic hub," Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said Tuesday.

In December the Selecbtboard held a meeting in Brattleboro with economic development officials and House and Senate members. Gartenstein, at that meeting, said residents in regional economic hubs like Brattleboro are left to fund police and fire services, highway departments and other necessary services to make the town safe and available to all of the employees who drive in every day to work from surrounding communities.

At the meeting Gartenstein said Brattleboro has one of the highest tax rates in the state, and he said similar economic hubs such as Springfield, Barre City, Montpelier and Rutland City also have among the highest municipal taxes in the state.

The Selectboard wants the Legislature to look at all of the similar economic hubs in Vermont that face the same financial challenges.

"This is not a phenomenon that is limited to Brattleboro," Gartenstein said. "It is a statewide issue and we are asking for the issue to be studied and examined so towns like Brattleboro can get relief."

Brattleboro's three representatives introduced a bill this year that would establish a committee to study the variation in property tax rates

Reps. Tristan Toleno, Mollie Burke and Valerie Stuart want the new committee to analyze variations in property tax rates between economic centers and surrounding communities, and identify any impacts the variations have on economic development efforts.

The bill is stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Gartenstein hoped that the Legislature would be able to begin the discussion this year and study the similar financial burdens larger municipalities face. He did not say next Wednesday's meeting was called to specifically address the stalled bill or to encourage lawmakers to move the bill along. But Gartenstein said he hopes the meeting next week will keep the conversation going and possibly get other communities around the state involved with the issue.

"I have been struggling for many years to understand why the tax burden on property owners is so high," Gartenstein said. "We believe that the limits on our ability to raise revenue impact our ability to distribute those costs to all of the people who benefit from them. We get support in the form of state grant funding, but it is not enough to meet the costs we bear as a regional economic engine."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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