A tri-town local option tax initiative (LOT), if approved by voters in the fall of 2020, will not take effect until June of 2021. Revenue will not begin to accrue to the LOT commission until the fall of 2021, and the decision of where to allocate some or all of those funds, through a publicly transparent process, would not take place until late 2021 or early 2022, a long way off in today’s dynamic environment.
While some would like to hear about very specific uses for LOT funds now, this lengthy planning horizon means that making specific choices would be premature.
More than 30 years of planning and studies by the Mad River Velley Planning District and other local entities have consistently shown that there is a need to financially support efforts to create accessible housing in The Valley for the people who work here. The other areas identified as needing funding include public transportation in The Valley, enhancement of our year-round recreation activities, other infrastructure efforts to enhance life in The Valley such as major improvements to Skatium, and a focused effort to attract visitors to The Valley in the traditional slow periods.
Deciding on specific projects within those five categories now, a long time before the LOT starts to function, would be unwise. For example, when you invest for your financial future, common wisdom indicates that you invest in a number of areas, avoiding a focus on just one specific financial area or industry. You choose your investments to seek a balance between appreciation in value and income return, creating a balance that offers some protection from downturns and unforeseen events. You wouldn’t want to lock yourself into investment decisions that would be binding for a period of years no matter what.
Additionally, you make these investment selections, or choose someone to advise you, without fully knowing about that person or company. The key is that you are making an investment in your future through a process that includes a significant degree of trust.
Currently, the LOT is very similar to this process. Approval of the LOT is an investment in the future of this Valley. The revenue generated would be invested in designated areas of need that yield enhancement of the quality of life for MRV residents, both full and part time, as well as tourists. The five designated areas represent the goals of this future investment in our community.
APPRECIATION OF VALUE
This would be appreciation of value. Part of this value comes from stabilization of property taxes. Accessible housing would improve the local economy; community infrastructure projects would provide needed community benefits. The rec district could be funded through the LOT, removing that expense from town budgets. The Mad River Valley Ambulance Service now seeks public support and Mad Bus transportation costs are increasing. These are expenses that could be addressed by a tri-town LOT.
These are some of the areas ripe for financial assistance. They have been identified for 30 years through the MRVPD and related planning initiatives. A lack of funds has prevented progress. But locking in LOT-related specific commitments within any of these areas at this point would be risky indeed.
The MRV LOT structure addresses the issue of trust and performance by having six members appointed to a commission by the select boards of each town. The select boards are accountable to the people and the commissioners are accountable to the select boards. Further, the approval of proposed projects that come before the commission depend on affirmative votes from each town. Two towns can’t overrule a dissenting town.
Trust is required. The people of this Valley need to be thoughtful and choose capable select board members to decide who serves on the LOT commission. Your vote counts.
For more information, please go to the website MRVLOT.org.
Ackland is chair of the Mad River Valley Planning District steering committee, vice chair of the Warren Select Board, a member of the steering committee subcommittee working on a tri-town LOT and a member of the tri-town negotiating committee working on the legal framework for a tri-town LOT.