Six select board members from Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston will begin the process of negotiating a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to enact a local option tax (LOT) that will come before voters at Town Meeting next year.
Two members from each select board will meet at the Waitsfield town office on May 13 at noon to begin the process.
Each of the three town select boards voted individually to advance the work of a Mad River Valley Planning District economic vitality subcommittee which has proposed that the three towns enact a local option tax to invest in housing, transportation, recreation and marketing for The Valley.
Over the past year the subcommittee has explored and proposed the creation of a Valleywide LOT that would raise $1 million, of which $700,000 would be retained locally. The subcommittee’s draft MOU lays out steps for the creation of an LOT commission made up of two representatives from each town and a chairperson.
That commission would hear applications from community organizations, private organizations, municipalities and others seeking the LOT funds, which would be disbursed as grants after public hearings.
The MOU negotiations are aimed at working out the mechanics of agreement between the three towns, including detailing how funds will be collected and administered. While the select boards can negotiate an MOU, that MOU and LOT would need to pass affirmatively by Australian ballot in all three towns.
WAITSFIELD VOTES TO JOIN
On April 22, the Waitsfield Select Board voted 3-2 to join Warren and Fayston at the negotiating table. Board chair Paul Hartshorn and board member Sal Spinosa voted against the action. Spinosa has urged Waitsfield to adopt its own local option tax. Board members Kellee Mazer, Jon Jamieson and Darryl Forrest voted in favor of negotiating and Mazer and Forrest will serve on the committee.
On April 23, the Warren Select Board voted unanimously to negotiate and appointed Bob Ackland and board chair Andy Cunningham to sit at the table. The Fayston Select Board voted unanimously to join the negotiations at its April 30 meeting.
“It’s time to sit at the table with representatives from Waitsfield and Warren and come up with a memorandum of understanding that, through discussion, can put a local option tax on the ballot for a vote at Town Meeting 2020,” board chair Jared Cadwell said at the April 30 meeting.
Because Fayston has a three-member select board, any time two of its members meet in public it constitutes a quorum and will require that meetings be properly warned with minutes taken and agenda posted per Vermont’s open meeting laws.
Fayston’s regular representatives to the negotiations will be Cadwell and board member Michael Jordan. Should more than two members of other select boards attend, each town would be represented by a quorum.
Cadwell said he was glad that the meetings would take place so publicly and said that it is important that people “see that we’re rolling up our sleeves and trying to get to some kind of understanding between our three towns.”
The draft MOU that the three select board committee will start stipulates that each town has to pass an LOT and spells out how the funds would be gathered and used for common purposes in The Valley. It differs from an earlier version that called for voters in all three towns to change the charter of the planning district.