Winhall rejects secession, still unhappy with Vermont

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(Host) In Winhall Tuesday, frustrated taxpayers voted not to pursue becoming part of New Hampshire. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy with Vermont.

(Keese) The article on secession came late in the day. But from the morning school budget discussion to an item on a state-mandated reappraisal, the recurring theme was unfair taxes.

And the recurring chorus was ‘Montpelier isn’t listening.’

(Scott Bushee) “You’re never going to do it through negotiation and talk. I’ve talked to Rick Hube until my eyes have fell out of my head and he is doing the best he can. But nobody up there likes us. We are their cash cow. We’re their wallet.”

(Keese) School Director Scott Bushee called Winhall the ‘Goose that laid the golden egg’ as far as the rest of the state is concerned. This town at the foot of Stratton Mountain has high property values and relatively few school children. A majority of its homes are vacation homes.

Under Vermont’ education funding formula, taxpayers here shell out more than $6 million annually in statewide property taxes. The town gets back less than a million for local education. According to Selectman Rudy Weaver, Winhall could save five to eight million dollars a year by joining New Hampshire.

(Weaver) “I didn’t come to Vermont to get taxed out of existence. And unfortunately I think that’s what we’re getting to. And so we can sit as a town and do nothing, or we can make a statement. We’re not satisfied with the current system and we’re not satisfied with the current level of taxes.”

(Keese) Many residents agreed with Weaver that the town should follow Killington’s lead and explore joining New Hampshire.

Darlene Palola agreed that something needed to be done but she advocated working with other towns in the same boat and continuing to lean on the Vermont Legislature.

(Palola) “New Hampshire also has a statewide property tax, they also have donor towns and I expect that they also would see us as a cash cow just as Montpelier does. So would we really be gaining anything if we traded Concord for Montpelier?”

(Keese) Resident George Souttie agreed.

(Souttie) “The answer is not that. The answer is we’re in Vermont, we’ve lived in Vermont. Fight the state in these things, fight your own state and work within it. How we going to work with New Hampshire – 50 miles away, or some place else? You’re not and you know it’s never going to happen.”

(Keese) Selectman Weaver counted that secession was a long shot, but not a bluff. But the motion was defeated, 42 to 27.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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