A 48-page “Greater Essex” merger booklet was sent to all Essex addresses. It was thrown together in a hurry and I believe some of its contents need additional comment and/or clarification.
On page 5, there is a comment that the Village will have lower taxes, temporarily. I asked for clarification of this and did not get an answer. What I think it means is that Village tax rate increases will be lower, temporarily. As the Village tax rate is reduced each year over 12 years, Village taxes may go down (depending on many, many other factors) but will still be higher than TOV taxes. So, it is confusing to say that Village taxes will be lower. Likewise, on page 6, but in the other direction, where it says TOV taxes will be higher, temporarily. For the 12 year transition period TOV taxes will be lower than the Village taxes but will be increasing at a faster rate than Village taxes. Also, I am confused by the fact that they are described as temporary. The tax increases will be permanent (or as permanent as anything ever is in government).
Also, on page 5, there is a comment that says, “Village residents would no longer pay taxes to the Town for services they do not receive.” They will continue to pay for the exact same Town services they have always paid for. I have asked that we explicitly list which services Village residents feel they are not receiving but none has been provided.
Pages 5 and 6 also references “predictable representation.” This is 3+3 which was already approved by voters and it not related to merger. Page 6 also talks about equal access and childcare. TOV residents already have equal access to most Junction Rec programs. Swimming lessons, camps and childcare are specifically listed because these are a few of the remaining programs that TOV residents do not have equal access to. It needs to be noted that having equal access means more competition for those programs. Expanding the programs to reduce waiting lists is not part of the merger plan. Also, regarding after school programs, the Town has already gone away from the YMCA, so that change is not related to merger.
Page 7 claims Australian ballot for the budget and Informational Town Meeting are advantages of merger. This was already approved by the voters and is not related to merger.
At the bottom of page 12, it mentions a taxing authority associated with the Downtown Improvement District. This taxing authority was removed from the charter proposal and is incorrect in the merger booklet. There is no tax associated with this district. I will comment about the sidewalk district in another post since I have a lot to say about it.
On page 13, there are some assumptions listed relative to the tax rate table and the tax increases/decreases on the next page. Assumption 2 says that merger will eliminate the TOV Highway tax. This is already proposed in the budget that will be voted on the same day as the merger question, so this change is not related to merger. There is also a confusing bit in assumption 4 and its associated footnote. The assumption says that the Village General Tax will be frozen for 12 years but then the footnote says that it is only frozen for demonstration purposes. I’ve asked for an explanation of this but no one has provided one. So, I have no idea what this means.
On page 19, in the discussion of separation, there is a sentence that says the Town “would not be able to maintain its current level of services.” This is true but the Town would also not need to maintain its current level of services. Yes, there were be some dramatic changes in revenues, but there would also be dramatic changes in costs. Also, yes, it would not be an easy transition.
On page 20, there is a comment in “Status Quo” that “the Village would still have to pay extra taxes to the Town.” Village residents pay the same Town taxes that the TOV pays (with the exception of the TOV Highway tax which is slated to go away this coming year). I think this sentence should say that Village residents will continue to pay taxes to both the Village and the Town.
The last sentence on page 26 says, “The Legislature is expected to reconcile the differences into a final merger charter.” This is there because the Village passed a different charter proposal in November. My expectation is that the Legislature will be focused on COVID this year and will punt any review of our charter proposals (including 3+3) to 2022 and then they will boot it back to us to reconcile ourselves.