Voters in Essex rejected a town-wide, 1-percent local sales tax.
The Essex Selectboard and the Essex Junction Board of Trustees had both endorsed the proposal. Officials say the tax would have raised about $850,000 annually for the town and village. Funds would have been used to lower property taxes and to up date infrastructure and increase economic development funding to attract more businesses to the town.
Selectboard member Linda Myers said the tax was rejected in a voice vote by a strong majority of the standing-room only crowd. The Selectboard had moved to table discussion of the tax because of sentiment against the bill, but voters rejected that move.
Voters also passed a $400,000 cut to the proposed town budget. Myers says most of the money cut was for salaries, and the select-board has now shifted their focus to revising the budget. Myers says she’s unsure what will happen going forward:
(Myers) The town had said that 55 % of any monies raised through the local options tax would go towards property tax relief, and that’s not going to happen. And then the capital needs, again, we’ll go into our capital budget, but we’re looking 5 years out at a need of 16-million in our capital budget."
(Host) Many townspeople said they had nothing left to give in a time of economic hardship. An official at IBM, the town’s largest employer also said the tax would have affected the facility’s ability to be competitive. And Myers says that concern struck voters:
(Myers) Quite frankly, a lot of people were concerned about the fact that IBM had come out against the local option tax. And when you have such a large segment of your population invested in one industry, what that industry says obviously has an effect on how people think.
(Host) Myers says the select-board is still hoping to study ways to bring more businesses to the town.