The Waitsfield Select Board has been discussing the merits of joining The Valley’s effort to consider a local option tax (LOT) of 1 percent on rooms, meals and alcohol sales. The select board voted to join an effort to create a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to put before the voters next March. As part of the discussion some members of the select board feel that Waitsfield has serious financial problems with the likelihood of a doubling of the municipal tax rate in coming years.
The facts don’t support this conclusion and as a member of the Waitsfield Budget Committee for the past six years, I can assure you it’s not true. The town not only doesn’t have financial problems, it has over $250,000 of unassigned surplus in the bank (see 2018 Town Report Page 47 on town website). Part of the concern revolves around road maintenance and that East Warren Road and North Road will need to be repaved in the next few years. This is true, but the annual debt payments of the town are scheduled to decline by $260,000 over the next three years. That will free up funds to pay for these road projects as well as others and we also have road reserves and possible grant funds.
The LOT economic development initiative grew out of a number of workshops and discussions due to a concern that The Valley economy was very undiversified being heavily dependent on the ski business and second-home owners. Recently the towns and others have been engaged in improving the off-road biking trails, but there have been limited other efforts, mainly due to lack of funding.
Our economy is highly dependent on climate and weather. It makes sense to explore other options and an LOT is a way to do it without increasing our property tax burden. It is estimated that it would cost the average household $20 to $40 depending on family size and expenditures. I feel and I believe many Valley residents feel our future economic vitality is worth it. Part of the proceeds could be directed to individual towns to allocate as they saw fit. The Valley towns have had many successful projects by joining forces via the Mad River Valley Planning District and other organizations. It’s time join together and make a small investment in our shared future.
Shea lives in Waitsfield and is a member of the Waitsfield Budget Committee and the Waitsfield Planning Commission and served as its chair for eight years.