FAQs & FACTS

This is the place for the official facts about separation. The questions and answers have been reviewed and approved by the Village Trustees. This section will keep growing as we have more details on how we will separate and what to expect as a Village resident.
 

Send us a question! We will post the answer here. 

Becoming a City

Is there a precedent for what the Village is trying to do? Can a village even legally separate from a town?


Short answer: Yes - to both questions.
Longer answer: There are 9 cities in Vermont, most of which were formerly incorporated villages. In the last century, 3 cities were approved by the Legislature. Newport separated from the Town of Newport in 1918. Winooski separated from the Town of Colchester in 1922. South Burlington initially became a town in 1864, when the Village of Burlington separated from the Town of Burlington; the Village of Burlington became a city, and the Town of South Burlington was born. South Burlington became a city in 1974. You can read more about this at the Secretary of State’s website.




Why do we have to become a city? Why can't we remain the Village of Essex Junction? Could we become a town?


Short answer: In Vermont, villages do not exist outside of towns. If a village separates from its parent town, it becomes a city. In Vermont, there is no other option but to become a city if we vote to separate from the Town of Essex.
Longer answer: Here is a list of all the current and former villages in Vermont. Many villages became unincorporated (or “dissolved”) and were absorbed into their parent towns. The villages that separated became cities.




Does the Village of Essex Junction government have the expertise and resources to become a city?


Short answer: Yes. The Village has been operating as a full service, self-governing, and self-sustaining municipality since 1893. Learn more. Longer answer: Right now the Essex Junction government owns and operates all the public works utilities, service equipment, water and sewer lines, and pumping stations within the Village. It owns and maintains all the streets, sidewalks, bridges, parks, walking paths, and other public infrastructure within the Village. The Essex Junction government presently has full authority over its own ordinances, building and zoning regulations, municipal planning, community and economic development, engineering and legal services, and capital expenditures. It has its own seat on the governing boards of the regional planning commission, solid waste district, and water district. It procures its own bonds and interfaces directly with state and federal agencies. It owns and operates the administrative offices at Lincoln Hall, the Essex Junction Fire Department, the Essex Junction Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Brownell Library, Essex Junction Recreation and Parks, and the Senior Center. The Essex Junction community elects its own representatives to the Vermont Legislature. The only major service the Town of Essex provides within the Village of Essex Junction is the Essex Police Department, which is why the Trustees and the Town Selectboard have tentatively agreed to negotiate a contract for continuing Town police service within Essex Junction after separation. The only hurdles for becoming a city are (1) voter approval and (2) legislative approval at the state level and its related political challenges (see the question about what happens after we vote on the charter). There are no financial, operational, or technical barriers preventing Essex Junction’s transition from village to city.




If we became a city, how would we compare with other Vermont cities?


Short answer: The City of Essex Junction would have about 11,000 people living within 4 square miles, with a total estimated budget of about $9.5 million. It would be Vermont’s fourth largest city by population after Burlington, Rutland, and South Burlington. Longer answer: By comparison, the City of Barre has about 8,500 people within 4 square miles with an FY22 budget of $12.8 million. The City of Montpelier has about 7,300 people in 10 square miles with an FY22 budget of $14.4 million. The City of St. Albans has about 6,900 people in 2 square miles with an FY22 budget of $9 million. The City of Winooski has about 7,300 people in 1.5 square miles with an FY22 budget of $8 million.




There have been discussions about new personnel that would need to be hired if we became a city, like a Village/City Manager, CFO or other finance personnel, HR Director/Assistant City Manager and others. Are these positions going to be filled from current staff or will they be new employees and, therefore, added costs?


Short Answer: There will be a mix of continued positions and new positions. Staff in the current Town-Village unified administration would be eligible for all positions. The Trustees anticipate that a fully independent city government will require restructuring the current unified administration, and possibly creating a few new positions, but the overall cost to Essex Junction taxpayers is anticipated to go down. It is possible that the impact on Village taxpayers could be neutral or a slight increase, but this would depend on the extent of the restructuring. Village taxes will change because Essex Junction property owners will no longer be taxed by Essex Town to help pay its administrative costs. Essex Junction residents will only be required to fund city services. The Trustees don’t have a precise estimate yet, but they are confident the per-household cost savings should offset any new administrative costs. Long Answer: Splitting the current Town-Village unified administration into two smaller administrations may require creating new positions, but it will also eliminate some positions and costs. For example, the Town of Essex information technology office currently has three full-time employees with a total budget of $434,470. Such a large operation may be necessary to serve two governments, but estimates show that the new City could provide excellent IT service for much less than the Village’s current $182,477 (42%) share of the Town’s IT expenditures. Larger size doesn’t always create efficiencies. The Trustees believe there are other significant costs incurred from operating a large, unified administration that can be reduced or eliminated by separating from the Town of Essex.




Would becoming a city be a phased-in process?


Short Answer: Part of the administrative transition from Village to City may occur over several years, which means some of the cost impacts would be phased in. Longer Answer: Essex Junction’s total municipal tax rate is $0.86, which is third highest of the large communities in Chittenden County. Essex Town’s tax rate, outside the Village, is $0.54, which is the second lowest. The Tax rate is the number that’s multiplied times a homeowner’s property value to determine their tax bill. Although exact numbers can’t be known at present, estimates show that Essex Junction will have an overall reduced tax burden and tax rate after separation, if current municipal operations and services are kept running at present levels, that will be comparable to other Chittenden County municipalities.





History

Is there a precedent for what the Village is trying to do? Can a village even legally separate from a town?


Short answer: Yes - to both questions.
Longer answer: There are 9 cities in Vermont, most of which were formerly incorporated villages. In the last century, 3 cities were approved by the Legislature. Newport separated from the Town of Newport in 1918. Winooski separated from the Town of Colchester in 1922. South Burlington initially became a town in 1864, when the Village of Burlington separated from the Town of Burlington; the Village of Burlington became a city, and the Town of South Burlington was born. South Burlington became a city in 1974. You can read more about this at the Secretary of State’s website.




Why do we have to become a city? Why can't we remain the Village of Essex Junction? Could we become a town?


Short answer: In Vermont, villages do not exist outside of towns. If a village separates from its parent town, it becomes a city. In Vermont, there is no other option but to become a city if we vote to separate from the Town of Essex. Longer answer: Here is a list of all the current and former villages in Vermont. Many villages became unincorporated (or “dissolved”) and were absorbed into their parent towns. The villages that separated became cities.




If we became a city, how would we compare with other Vermont cities?


Short answer: The City of Essex Junction would have about 11,000 people living within 4 square miles, with a total estimated budget of about $9.5 million. It would be Vermont’s fourth largest city by population after Burlington, Rutland, and South Burlington. Learn more. Longer answer: By comparison, the City of Barre has about 8,500 people within 4 square miles with an FY22 budget of $12.8 million. The City of Montpelier has about 7,300 people in 10 square miles with an FY22 budget of $14.4 million. The City of St. Albans has about 6,900 people in 2 square miles with an FY22 budget of $9 million. The City of Winooski has about 7,300 people in 1.5 square miles with an FY22 budget of $8 million.





Municipal Services

Would I still be able to use the Essex Free Library if we separate?


Answer: Yes. Like all Vermont public libraries, anyone can go to the Essex Free Library as well as the Brownell Library. As for borrowing books, both libraries are members of the Chittenden County homecard system, which allows library card holders at 27 different libraries to borrow books from each others’ libraries. Here is a list of all the libraries in the homecard system.




Will we be able to have the same access to Indian Brook we have now? What about Saxon Hill and other Town parks?


Answer: Currently all Town parks except Indian Brook Park have open access. Anyone can use them, regardless of where they live. This is also true of all Village parks. Indian Brook Park currently sells season passes that are only available for Town residents. New in 2021, non-Town residents can purchase day passes, which would provide future City of Essex Junction residents access to the park. However, given our history and the financial support of the park by Village residents, the Village Trustees and Town Selectboard will be discussing how to handle access to Indian Brook Park by Village residents after separation, as well as parks and recreation services in general. We will update this answer once there is a decision regarding this topic.




What will happen to the Senior Center and the Senior Bus? Will there be changes?


Answer: Currently the Village and Town provide senior services jointly. The Senior Center is housed in the Village Offices at 2 Lincoln Street. The Town provides the Senior Van service. The Village and Town share the cost of Senior Center staff. Keep in mind that Village taxpayers pay for 42% of the cost of this service. Town residents have a lower membership fee than non-residents.The Village Trustees and Town Selectboard will be discussing how to handle senior services after separation. We will update this answer once there is a decision regarding this topic.




What’s the plan for the police?


Answer: Currently, there is general agreement between the Village Trustees and Town Selectboard that after separation both municipalities will share the services of the Essex Police Department so that there is no change in how residents are served. The police department has stated they recognize and appreciate their commitment to the Village and are committed to serving both the Village and the Town.Both boards will be discussing how to handle the cost of police services after separation. We will update this answer once there is a decision regarding this topic.




What new services would the Village have to start offering that the Town usually provides?


Short answer: There are a few administrative services that the Town provides for the Village that the Village would have to take on after separation. Longer answer: New services that the Village currently does not provide for itself include offering animal licenses, marriage licenses, and the office of Health Officer. In addition, the new governing board of the City of Essex Junction would also serve as its own Liquor Control Board to grant liquor licenses and would adjudicate dog bite cases. Village taxpayers currently pay for the services of the Town assessor. The Village Trustees are currently discussing with the Town Selectboard whether to continue sharing that service after separation, or to hire or contract out the services of an assessor.




What will happen to the Wastewater Treatment Facility after separation? Will separation affect my sewer or water bill?


Short answer: Separation will not affect water or sewer bills. Learn more. Longer answer: Essex Junction purchases its water from the Champlain Water District, which it resells directly to Village residents and businesses. This will continue after separation. Essex Junction owns and operates the community wastewater/ sewage treatment facility, and will continue to do so after separation. The Town of Essex and Town of Williston purchase water treatment service from the Essex Junction facility and will continue to do so after separation. Separation will not affect their rates.




Does the Village of Essex Junction government have the expertise and resources to become a city?


Short answer: Yes. The Village has been operating as a full service, self-governing, and self-sustaining municipality since 1893. Longer answer: Right now the Essex Junction government owns and operates all the public works utilities, service equipment, water and sewer lines, and pumping stations within the Village. It owns and maintains all the streets, sidewalks, bridges, parks, walking paths, and other public infrastructure within the Village. The Essex Junction government presently has full authority over its own ordinances, building and zoning regulations, municipal planning, community and economic development, engineering and legal services, and capital expenditures. It has its own seat on the governing boards of the regional planning commission, solid waste district, and water district. It procures its own bonds and interfaces directly with state and federal agencies. It owns and operates the administrative offices at Lincoln Hall, the Essex Junction Fire Department, the Essex Junction Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Brownell Library, Essex Junction Recreation and Parks, and the Senior Center. The Essex Junction community elects its own representatives to the Vermont Legislature. The only major service the Town of Essex provides within the Village of Essex Junction is the Essex Police Department, which is why the Trustees and the Town Selectboard have tentatively agreed to negotiate a contract for continuing Town police service within Essex Junction after separation. The only hurdles for becoming a city are (1) voter approval and (2) legislative approval at the state level and its related political challenges (see the question about what happens after we vote on the charter). There are no financial, operational, or technical barriers preventing Essex Junction’s transition from village to city.




If we separate, would we still have to go to the Town of Essex for a marriage license or a dog license? Would the Town Selectboard still handle issues with dogs?


Answer: No. With separation there would be a new City Clerk, who would offer all the same services that the Village Clerk once provided, with the addition of issuing marriage licenses and dog licenses. The City Council would have the responsibility for dog issues, including maintaining leash laws and hearing dog bite cases.




Are Town trucks going to come through a Village neighborhood to plow part of a road for houses located in the Town?


Answer: No. There are no Village or Town neighborhoods fitting that description. The only roads connecting the Village and Town are state highways: Routes 15, 117, and 2A. There are no secondary roads connecting Village and Town neighborhoods and no neighborhoods straddling the Village-Town boundary.




The Town has spent a lot of money renovating 81 Main Street. Lincoln Hall access and parking are challenging. How do staff feel about returning to Lincoln Hall? Will the Village/City want to build a new, more accessible office, possibly incurring more costs?


Answer: Village staff and the Trustees feel uniformly excited by the prospect of returning historic Lincoln Hall to its role as the vital hub of Essex Junction government. The Trustees anticipate that alterations to the building will be necessary to accommodate a larger staff and more public activity. We are also working with local developers to increase the number of nearby public parking spaces. The Trustees have always restrained their spending on the building out of concern that Village taxpayers are required to support Essex Town’s capital expenditures as well as the Village’s. If separation is successful, the overall cost savings would help fund Lincoln Hall renovations while still delivering a tax savings to Essex Junction property owners.




Who does what? I live in the Village but I’m confused about who provides my local services: Essex Junction or Essex Town? Please tell me which government provides the services I use and depend on.


Answer:

  • Street and Sidewalk Plowing and Maintenance – Essex Junction
  • Maple Street Park and Cascade Park – Essex Junction
  • EJRP Daycare, After School Care, Rec Programs – Essex Junction
  • Brownell Library – Essex Junction
  • Senior Center/Senior Bus – Essex Junction & Essex Town
  • Police – Essex Town
  • Fire Department – Essex Junction
  • Water/Sewer Line and Infrastructure Maintenance – Essex Junction
  • Wastewater treatment – Essex Junction
  • Community Development and Planning – Essex Junction
  • Building permits & Zoning Variances – Essex Junction
  • Business Licenses – Essex Junction
  • Marriage Licenses, Dog Licenses, Liquor Licenses – Essex Town




Will there be any changes to the fire department? To Essex Rescue?


Answer: The Essex Junction Fire Department will continue operating as usual, and the current mutual aid agreement with the Town of Essex Fire Department will remain in place. Essex Rescue is an independent organization that will not be affected by separation. Currently the Town pays Essex Rescue for its services to both the Village and Town outside the Village. If separation occurs, the new City would pay Essex Rescue directly for those services.




What will happen to the fire truck we bought jointly with the Town if we separate?


Answer: The fire truck was purchased by Essex Junction and will remain with the Essex Junction Fire Department.




Will the two fire departments still assist each other when needed?


Answer: Yes, Essex Junction’s mutual aid agreement with Essex Town, and other communities in Chittenden County, will continue.




How are public spaces going to change?


Answer: All public spaces and facilities currently owned by Essex Junction and Essex Town will continue to be open to the public as they’ve always been.




How are departments going to change?


Answer: No changes are anticipated for major departments such as fire departments, police, parks, public works, libraries, etc. Essex Junction will need to expand a few of its administrative services, such as finance and billing, to compensate for the loss of administrative services presently shared with Essex Town. These changes are expected to be minor.





Budget

The Village’s present budget is $5.6 million. If the new city budget is $9.5 million, won’t that require a large tax increase for Essex Junction taxpayers?


Short answer: No. The money Essex Junction property owners save by no longer paying taxes to the Town of Essex will offset the cost of a new city budget and may even result in a net tax savings. Longer answer: Essex Junction property owners will pay $3.7 million in taxes this year to support the Village’s $5.6 million budget, and they will pay $6.1 million to the Town of Essex to help pay the Town’s $15.9 million budget. Exact numbers can’t be known at this time but the total $9.8 million paid out by Essex Junction taxpayers for municipal services this year exceeds the estimates of the new City of Essex Junction budget. It’s important to note that the Village and the Town, like most municipal governments, acquire revenue from a variety of sources other than property taxes, such as grants and fees. The new City of Essex Junction will probably not require $9.5 million in property taxes to fund a $9.5 million budget.




There have been discussions about new personnel that would need to be hired if we became a city, like a Village/City Manager, CFO or other finance personnel, HR Director/Assistant City Manager and others. Are these positions going to be filled from current staff or will they be new employees and, therefore, added costs?


Short Answer: There will be a mix of continued positions and new positions. Staff in the current Town-Village unified administration would be eligible for all positions. The Trustees anticipate that a fully independent city government will require restructuring the current unified administration, and possibly creating a few new positions, but the overall cost to Essex Junction taxpayers is anticipated to go down. It is possible that the impact on Village taxpayers could be neutral or a slight increase, but this would depend on the extent of the restructuring. Village taxes will change because Essex Junction property owners will no longer be taxed by Essex Town to help pay its administrative costs. Essex Junction residents will only be required to fund city services. The Trustees don’t have a precise estimate yet, but they are confident the per-household cost savings should offset any new administrative costs. Long Answer: Splitting the current Town-Village unified administration into two smaller administrations may require creating new positions, but it will also eliminate some positions and costs. For example, the Town of Essex information technology office currently has two full-time employees with a total budget of $434,470. Such a large operation may be necessary to serve two governments, but estimates show that the new City could provide excellent IT service for much less than the Village’s current $182,477 (42%) share of the Town’s IT expenditures. Larger size doesn’t always create efficiencies. The Trustees believe there are other significant costs incurred from operating a large, unified administration that can be reduced or eliminated by separating from the Town of Essex.





Rationale

Other than possible tax savings, what might be some of the other benefits of becoming a city?


Answer: The people of Essex Junction will be served by a government focused solely on their needs. All the municipal tax revenues collected from Essex Junction taxpayers will go directly to helping provide and improve most of the services they use and depend on, such as parks and recreation, water and sewer services, public works and street maintenance, community planning, library services, and fire safety.




I really just don’t want to separate. I just want us to stay as one Town of Essex. Merger didn’t happen, so why can’t things just stay the way they are?


Short Answer: The Essex Junction Trustees firmly believe the imbalance of tax burdens between Village and Town residents is unacceptable in terms of good governance, and unsustainable in terms of our financial health and quality of life. Right now, Village households pay, on average, $925 more per year to help support the Town of Essex government while also supporting their own local Essex Junction government services. With our current Village-Town arrangement, this disparity increases as the Town beyond the Village grows. If merger isn’t possible, separation is the only permanent way to change the arrangement. Long Answer: The development we’ve seen in the Five Corners area, and in other parts of the Village, needs to be managed carefully, which requires local investment. Our Village infrastructure – streets, bridges, culverts, sidewalks – needs constant monitoring and upkeep. To finance these costs, the Trustees must continually choose between raising taxes on already overburdened Village taxpayers, borrowing money, or putting things on hold with the hope that federal or state grants, or other revenue sources, will come our way. “Staying the same” – with no merger or separation – means this problem will only grow worse as the Town continues to draw more and more revenue from the Village to pay for its own needs outside the Village. Separation will redirect Village tax dollars to only pay for Village needs – like every other Vermont community – while still delivering tax relief to our citizens.




Why doesn’t Essex Junction just dissolve its charter and force a merger with Essex Town?


Answer: The Vermont Legislature must approve changes to municipal charters, including dissolutions, and the Legislature would not allow Essex Junction to walk away from its debts, assets, contractual obligations, and other responsibilities by simply dissolving its charter. The Town of Essex has never owned the Village’s assets or properties, so it wouldn’t automatically acquire them by default if the Village charter was dissolved. Nor would the Town be required to fund and operate Essex Junction’s current municipal services, such as fire, library, and recreation. The Legislature would dissolve Essex Junction’s charter only if there were a comprehensive and binding legal agreement for an orderly transfer of assets and responsibilities between Essex Junction and the Town of Essex. The municipal merger charter that was rejected by Town voters earlier this year contained such an agreement.




Besides money and taxes, what are some of the other reasons for separation?


Answer: Essex Junction is one of Vermont’s fastest growing communities, according to the 2020 U.S. census report. Much of that growth is due to Essex Junction’s excellent community planning and development strategy, which envisions a compact but dynamic, diverse, pedestrian-friendly downtown surrounded by well-maintained, walkable, safe neighborhoods. The Village has achieved this success while also financially supporting growth and development in Essex Town, which has an entirely different development strategy that doesn’t include the Village. An independent city government can focus its full attention on managing growth within the four square miles of Essex Junction without concern for having local resources drained away by a neighboring government. An independent city will also have a higher degree of control over municipal regulations and taxes within Essex Junction, and will be more competitive for investment. Right now, businesses considering locating in Williston, Colchester, or Essex Town outside the Village know they’ll only pay taxes to one local government; businesses locating in Essex Junction know they’ll pay taxes to the Essex Town government as well as the Essex Junction government. Becoming an independent city will make Essex Junction more affordable for businesses.





Approval Process

When do we vote on separation? Is it in person at the polls or will we vote by mail?


Answer: At their August 24th meeting, the Trustees voted unanimously to hold the separation vote by mail-in ballot. Also, the vote will be Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021 at Essex High School from 7 AM – 7 PM.




What happens after we vote on the charter?


Short answer: All municipal charters must be approved by the Vermont Legislature and the Governor. A passing vote by Village residents will kick off a state-level process that has many steps. Longer answer: Here is a summary of the steps that will follow a positive vote by the Village:

  1. The voter-approved charter is submitted by Essex Junction’s state representatives to the House Government Operations Committee (HGO).
  2. HGO will take testimony on the charter, consider/debate it, and decide whether to approve or reject it. They can also make changes to the charter itself. The charter will also be vetted by Legislative Council (the attorneys who serve the Legislature) and they will provide commentary and flag any issues.
  3. If HGO approves the charter, it then goes to Senate Government Operations (SGO).
  4. SGO can take testimony on the charter, consider/debate it, and decide whether to approve or reject it. They can also make changes to the charter itself.
  5. Because separation would impact the taxation of both municipalities, the charter will most likely also go before the House Ways & Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee. These are the two legislative committees responsible for taxation. They would also have the ability to make changes to the charter or reject it.
  6. If SGO makes changes to the charter, it must go back to HGO again for their approval.
  7. After both HGO and SGO have approved the charter, it then goes to the full House for approval.
  8. If the House approves the charter, then it goes to the full Senate for approval.
  9. If both the House and Senate approve the charter, then it goes to the Governor for approval. The Governor can veto the charter.
  10. If the Governor approves the charter, then it goes into effect and the City of Essex Junction would be created according to the charter’s terms.
The charter can be revised by any of the state legislative bodies that touch it. It can be rejected by a committee and sent back to the Trustees for any number of reasons. Delays could prevent it from being considered for a few weeks or months, a year, or even until the next legislative session. Even if it clears both the House and the Senate, the charter could be vetoed by the Governor. The reason the Legislature and the Governor have so much influence in this process is because Vermont is a “Dillon’s Rule” state. This means that all Vermont municipalities are instruments of the state and cannot make certain decisions on their own without legislative approval. Citizen advocacy by those in favor of separation at the local and state level is likely to be an important factor in its success or failure. The Town Selectboard may oppose separation and seek to prevent Essex Junction from becoming a city that would no longer pay taxes to the Town. The Legislature may give the Selectboard an opportunity to testify and explain any opposition or objections they have. The Selectboard could also initiate legal challenges to separation on their own or be petitioned to do so by Town citizens. Village residents are able to reach out to legislators and committees to share their support of the charter’s passage. There will be opportunities to testify in support of the charter. High turnout at legislative meetings and frequent communication with the Legislature will have an impact. However, there are also citizens in the Village and the rest of the Town of Essex who do not want to separate. They have the same opportunities for advocacy that people who want the charter to pass have. The Town Selectboard and the Vermont Legislature will be lobbied heavily by people who do not want the Village to separate. A charter change initiative for transitioning from village to city has many hurdles to overcome. Residents should not feel assured of success if the November vote passes. That is simply the first step in the next part of the process. However, Village residents have the opportunity to strongly advocate for our community’s future and come together in large numbers to achieve success by positively and clearly telling the Legislature that they want the charter to pass.




Does the Town have to also vote on separation? Can the Town stop us from separating?


Short answer: The November 2021 vote will be for Village of Essex Junction residents only. Longer answer: The Town Selectboard and citizens advocating against separation could potentially influence the legislative process against passing the charter.There is precedent in Vermont that a village can vote by itself to separate from its parent town. There are other instances when a village and a town both voted and separation was defeated. You can learn more about this at the Secretary of State’s website.





Voting

When do we vote on separation? Is it in person at the polls or will we vote by mail?


Answer: At their August 24th meeting, the Trustees voted unanimously to hold the separation vote by mail-in ballot. Also, the polls will be open for voting on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021 at Essex High School.




Does the Town have to also vote on separation? Can the Town stop us from separating?


Short answer: The November 2021 vote will be for Village of Essex Junction residents only. Longer answer: As mentioned above, the Town Selectboard and citizens advocating against separation could potentially influence the legislative process against passing the charter. There is precedent in Vermont that a village can vote by itself to separate from its parent town. There are other instances when a village and a town both voted and separation was defeated. You can learn more about this at the Secretary of State’s website.




What happens after we vote on the charter?


Short answer: All municipal charters must be approved by the Vermont Legislature and the Governor. A passing vote by Village residents will kick off a state-level process that has many steps. Longer answer: Here is a summary of the steps that will follow a positive vote by the Village:

  1. The voter-approved charter is submitted by Essex Junction’s state representatives to the House Government Operations Committee (HGO).
  2. HGO will take testimony on the charter, consider/debate it, and decide whether to approve or reject it. They can also make changes to the charter itself. The charter will also be vetted by Legislative Council (the attorneys who serve the Legislature) and they will provide commentary and flag any issues.
  3. If HGO approves the charter, it then goes to Senate Government Operations (SGO).
  4. SGO can take testimony on the charter, consider/debate it, and decide whether to approve or reject it. They can also make changes to the charter itself.
  5. Because separation would impact the taxation of both municipalities, the charter will most likely also go before the House Ways & Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee. These are the two legislative committees responsible for taxation. They would also have the ability to make changes to the charter or reject it.
  6. If SGO makes changes to the charter, it must go back to HGO again for their approval.
  7. After both HGO and SGO have approved the charter, it then goes to the full House for approval.
  8. If the House approves the charter, then it goes to the full Senate for approval.
  9. If both the House and Senate approve the charter, then it goes to the Governor for approval. The Governor can veto the charter.
  10. If the Governor approves the charter, then it goes into effect and the City of Essex Junction would be created according to the charter’s terms.
The charter can be revised by any of the state legislative bodies that touch it. It can be rejected by a committee and sent back to the Trustees for any number of reasons. Delays could prevent it from being considered for a few weeks or months, a year, or even until the next legislative session. Even if it clears both the House and the Senate, the charter could be vetoed by the Governor. The reason the Legislature and the Governor have so much influence in this process is because Vermont is a “Dillon’s Rule” state. This means that all Vermont municipalities are instruments of the state and cannot make certain decisions on their own without legislative approval. Citizen advocacy by those in favor of separation at the local and state level is likely to be an important factor in its success or failure. The Town Selectboard may oppose separation and seek to prevent Essex Junction from becoming a city that would no longer pay taxes to the Town. The Legislature may give the Selectboard an opportunity to testify and explain any opposition or objections they have. The Selectboard could also initiate legal challenges to separation on their own or be petitioned to do so by Town citizens. Village residents are able to reach out to legislators and committees to share their support of the charter’s passage. There will be opportunities to testify in support of the charter. High turnout at legislative meetings and frequent communication with the Legislature will have an impact. However, there are also citizens in the Village and the rest of the Town of Essex who do not want to separate. They have the same opportunities for advocacy that people who want the charter to pass have. The Town Selectboard and the Vermont Legislature will be lobbied heavily by people who do not want the Village to separate. A charter change initiative for transitioning from village to city has many hurdles to overcome. Residents should not feel assured of success if the November vote passes. That is simply the first step in the next part of the process. However, Village residents have the opportunity to strongly advocate for our community’s future and come together in large numbers to achieve success by positively and clearly telling the Legislature that they want the charter to pass.




How will the timing work for mail-in ballots for voters who are deployed?


Answer: For most deployed military personnel and civilians overseas, ballots are emailed. Once they receive it they must print the ballot out, mark it with their vote, and then mail it back via regular mail. Deployed service members should put in a request for a ballot to be sent to them electronically in order to get the ballot delivered as soon as possible after it is ready.
Deployed service members can request an electronic ballot by contacting the Village/Town Clerk’s Office at 802-879-0413 or clerk@essex.org. Requests can be made now, no need to wait. The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office has more information about early and absentee voting.





Charter

What happens after we vote on the charter?


Short answer: All municipal charters must be approved by the Vermont Legislature and the Governor. A passing vote by Village residents will kick off a state-level process that has many steps. Longer answer: Here is a summary of the steps that will follow a positive vote by the Village:

  1. The voter-approved charter is submitted by Essex Junction’s state representatives to the House Government Operations Committee (HGO).
  2. HGO will take testimony on the charter, consider/debate it, and decide whether to approve or reject it. They can also make changes to the charter itself. The charter will also be vetted by Legislative Council (the attorneys who serve the Legislature) and they will provide commentary and flag any issues.
  3. If HGO approves the charter, it then goes to Senate Government Operations (SGO).
  4. SGO can take testimony on the charter, consider/debate it, and decide whether to approve or reject it. They can also make changes to the charter itself.
  5. Because separation would impact the taxation of both municipalities, the charter will most likely also go before the House Ways & Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee. These are the two legislative committees responsible for taxation. They would also have the ability to make changes to the charter or reject it.
  6. If SGO makes changes to the charter, it must go back to HGO again for their approval.
  7. After both HGO and SGO have approved the charter, it then goes to the full House for approval.
  8. If the House approves the charter, then it goes to the full Senate for approval.
  9. If both the House and Senate approve the charter, then it goes to the Governor for approval. The Governor can veto the charter.
  10. If the Governor approves the charter, then it goes into effect and the City of Essex Junction would be created according to the charter’s terms.
The charter can be revised by any of the state legislative bodies that touch it. It can be rejected by a committee and sent back to the Trustees for any number of reasons. Delays could prevent it from being considered for a few weeks or months, a year, or even until the next legislative session. Even if it clears both the House and the Senate, the charter could be vetoed by the Governor. The reason the Legislature and the Governor have so much influence in this process is because Vermont is a “Dillon’s Rule” state. This means that all Vermont municipalities are instruments of the state and cannot make certain decisions on their own without legislative approval. Citizen advocacy by those in favor of separation at the local and state level is likely to be an important factor in its success or failure. The Town Selectboard may oppose separation and seek to prevent Essex Junction from becoming a city that would no longer pay taxes to the Town. The Legislature may give the Selectboard an opportunity to testify and explain any opposition or objections they have. The Selectboard could also initiate legal challenges to separation on their own or be petitioned to do so by Town citizens. Village residents are able to reach out to legislators and committees to share their support of the charter’s passage. There will be opportunities to testify in support of the charter. High turnout at legislative meetings and frequent communication with the Legislature will have an impact. However, there are also citizens in the Village and the rest of the Town of Essex who do not want to separate. They have the same opportunities for advocacy that people who want the charter to pass have. The Town Selectboard and the Vermont Legislature will be lobbied heavily by people who do not want the Village to separate. A charter change initiative for transitioning from village to city has many hurdles to overcome. Residents should not feel assured of success if the November vote passes. That is simply the first step in the next part of the process. However, Village residents have the opportunity to strongly advocate for our community’s future and come together in large numbers to achieve success by positively and clearly telling the Legislature that they want the charter to pass.




I have been hearing about breaking us up into voting districts--is that part of separation? What happens to our Trustee and Selectboard representation post-separation?


Short answer: If the Village separates from the Town, the Town Selectboard would no longer represent the Village in any way. The City of Essex Junction would have a city council. The councillors would be elected at-large. Longer answer: After separation the Town Selectboard would represent only the residents of the Town, within the new borders that would be established by the separation of the Village. Former residents of the Village within the Town would now solely be residents of the City of Essex Junction. They would no longer be Town residents and would no longer be allowed to serve on the Selectboard. The Village Trustees recently decided that the new city council would be elected at-large. This means that all city councillors would be elected by all residents of the City of Essex Junction, and all city councillors would represent the entire City. This is how Village Trustees are currently elected. There would be no voting wards. However, at any time in the future the City Council could decide to create voting wards.





Representation

I have been hearing about breaking us up into voting districts--is that part of separation? What happens to our Trustee and Selectboard representation post-separation?


Short answer: If the Village separates from the Town, the Town Selectboard would no longer represent the Village in any way. The City of Essex Junction would have a city council. The councillors would be elected at-large.
Longer answer: After separation the Town Selectboard would represent only the residents of the Town, within the new borders that would be established by the separation of the Village. Former residents of the Village within the Town would now solely be residents of the City of Essex Junction. They would no longer be Town residents and would no longer be allowed to serve on the Selectboard.The Village Trustees recently decided that the new city council would be elected at-large. This means that all city councillors would be elected by all residents of the City of Essex Junction, and all city councillors would represent the entire City. This is how Village Trustees are currently elected. There would be no voting wards. However, at any time in the future the City Council could decide to create voting wards.





Global Foundries/IBM

Is it true that Essex Junction depends on Global Foundries for tax revenue and that an independent City of Essex Junction would suffer if Global Foundries closed?


Short answer: No. Essex Junction and Essex Town no longer rely heavily on Global Foundries (formerly IBM) for tax revenue. Longer answer: Prior to 2012, IBM’s assessed property tax value was significantly reduced and its tax subsidy to the Village and Town was phased out. Global Foundries currently comprises about 8% of Essex Junction’s Grand List (total taxable property), but if the plant were to be sold or cease operations, the industrial park would retain most of its assessed value and the owner would still be required to pay Essex Junction property taxes.





Schools

Will separation affect the school district (EWSD)? Would the school district also have to separate?


Answer: Separation will not affect the school district or school operations, and the school district would not have to separate. Essex Junction schools are part of the Essex Westford School District, which functions as an entirely separate municipal operation from the Essex Junction, Town of Essex, and Town of Westford governments.





Taxes

The Village’s present budget is $5.6 million. If the new city budget is $9.5 million, won’t that require a large tax increase for Essex Junction taxpayers?


Short answer: No. The money Essex Junction property owners save by no longer paying taxes to the Town of Essex will offset the cost of a new city budget and may even result in a net tax savings. Longer answer: Essex Junction property owners will pay $3.7 million in taxes this year to support the Village’s $5.6 million budget, and they will pay $6.1 million to the Town of Essex to help pay the Town’s $15.9 million budget. Exact numbers can’t be known at this time but the total $9.8 million paid out by Essex Junction taxpayers for municipal services this year exceeds the estimates of the new City of Essex Junction budget. It’s important to note that the Village and the Town, like most municipal governments, acquire revenue from a variety of sources other than property taxes, such as grants and fees. The new City of Essex Junction will probably not require $9.5 million in property taxes to fund a $9.5 million budget.




Would I still have to pay taxes to the Town? Would we go back to getting 2 different tax bills?


Short answer: During the first year after the Charter is signed into law by the Governor, City residents will pay taxes to the Town of Essex. After that, any money paid to the Town would be only for a contracted service, paid for through the City budget, and through City taxes.” If the Village separates, residents would receive only one tax bill that would include both municipal and education taxes. Longer answer: Village residents voted to approve the building of the Essex Police Department facility and will have to continue paying off that bond along with Town outside the Village residents. That bond will be paid off in 2033 and then Village residents would no longer have to pay it. If the Village Trustees and the Town Selectboard agree to share some services after separation--like police services--then there would be a financial agreement between the two municipalities and Village residents would pay for their share of those services through City taxes. If the Village separates, residents would receive only one tax bill that would include municipal and education taxes, but only for the new City. Any taxes still owed to the Town would be included in your City taxes.




Is it true that Essex Junction depends on Global Foundries for tax revenue and that an independent City of Essex Junction would suffer if Global Foundries closed?


Short answer: No. Essex Junction and Essex Town no longer rely heavily on Global Foundries (formerly IBM) for tax revenue. Learn more. Longer answer: Prior to 2012, IBM’s assessed property tax value was significantly reduced and its tax subsidy to the Village and Town was phased out. Global Foundries currently comprises about 8% of Essex Junction’s Grand List (total taxable property), but if the plant were to be sold or cease operations, the industrial park would retain most of its assessed value and the owner would still be required to pay Essex Junction property taxes.




I really just don’t want to separate. I just want us to stay as one Town of Essex. Merger didn’t happen, so why can’t things just stay the way they are?


Short Answer: The Essex Junction Trustees firmly believe the imbalance of tax burdens between Village and Town residents is unacceptable in terms of good governance, and unsustainable in terms of our financial health and quality of life. Right now, Village households pay, on average, $925 more per year to help support the Town of Essex government while also supporting their own local Essex Junction government services. With our current Village-Town arrangement, this disparity increases as the Town beyond the Village grows. If merger isn’t possible, separation is the only permanent way to change the arrangement. Long Answer: The development we’ve seen in the Five Corners area, and in other parts of the Village, needs to be managed carefully, which requires local investment. Our Village infrastructure – streets, bridges, culverts, sidewalks – needs constant monitoring and upkeep. To finance these costs, the Trustees must continually choose between raising taxes on already overburdened Village taxpayers, borrowing money, or putting things on hold with the hope that federal or state grants, or other revenue sources, will come our way. “Staying the same” – with no merger or separation – means this problem will only grow worse as the Town continues to draw more and more revenue from the Village to pay for its own needs outside the Village. Separation will redirect Village tax dollars to only pay for Village needs – like every other Vermont community – while still delivering tax relief to our citizens.




Isn’t Essex Junction just an overlay district or special taxing district of Essex Town?


Short Answer: No. Like every other charter-incorporated city, town, or village in Vermont, Essex Junction is a full-service municipal government, empowered to raise taxes to provide all municipal resources its citizens require. The entire network of the Village’s municipal service infrastructure – streets, sidewalks, bridges, water and sewer lines, parks, recreation, library, fire department, water treatment plant – was built by Essex Junction taxpayers and comes under the sole jurisdiction of the Essex Junction government. Long Answer: The main difference for incorporated villages is that they must exist within the geographic boundaries of a town, and village citizens are considered citizens of the town and must pay property taxes to the town even if town services are not provided within the village. Incorporated villages exist all over Vermont. Overlay districts and taxing districts are sections of cities and towns specially zoned for environmental or historic preservation purposes, or for providing a particular service unavailable to the rest of the community. Like any other city or town, such as Winooski or the Town of Essex, Essex Junction has full authority to write ordinances, own municipal property, regulate its zoning and development, receive federal and state grants, and interact directly with county, state, and federal agencies. All of Essex Junction’s major services – fire, library, street department, water & sewer, parks & recreation – predate their counterparts in Essex Town. Essex Junction transferred control of its police department to the Town in the 1970s, with the understanding that it would serve the entire community, to avoid having its taxpayers fund a Village police department and a separate Town department. Other than police, the Town of Essex provides some administrative and clerical services for the Village, such as the property assessor, liquor licenses, and health officer, and it pays some intergovernmental costs (such as county taxes) that Essex Junction would be required to pay as an independent city.




Does the Champlain Valley Expo pay taxes to the Village? What will happen if the Expo sells off or develops part of its land? And how much of the land is in the TOV and how much is in the Village?


Answer: The Expo is a tax-exempt property and is not part of the Village’s or Town’s grand list properties for taxation. This is because of state statutes regarding agricultural venues, and not a local decision. Because it pays no property taxes, the Expo’s status won’t affect any cost sharing agreements between Essex Junction and Essex Town. The Expo provides Essex Junction $15,000 annually as a payment in lieu of taxes (aka PILOT), and it frequently makes its land and buildings available for public use--the most recent example being its serving first as an alternate hospital, then a testing site, and then a vaccination site throughout the pandemic. All of the Expo’s property is within Essex Junction. Any subdivision and sale of its properties would occur within the city boundaries, and any new opportunities for property tax assessments would be available only to the city.




Would becoming a city be a phased-in process?


Short Answer: Part of the administrative transition from Village to City may occur over several years, which means some of the cost impacts would be phased in. But there is presently no plan to phase-in the overall tax increase in the Town. Longer Answer: Essex Junction’s total municipal tax rate is $0.86, which is third highest of the large communities in Chittenden County. Essex Town’s tax rate, outside the Village, is $0.54, which is the second lowest. The Tax rate is the number that’s multiplied times a homeowner’s property value to determine their tax bill. Although exact numbers can’t be known at present, estimates show that Essex Junction and Essex Town will have approximately the same tax rate after separation if they keep their municipal operations and services running at present levels, and that their new tax rates will be close to the overall average for Chittenden County.




How would separation affect our tax dollars? Will our taxes go up?


Answer: Present estimates show that taxes will go down in Essex Junction. This is because Essex Junction property owners and businesses will no longer be required to pay for services in Essex Town, outside of Essex Junction. Municipal taxes collected within Essex Junction will exclusively pay for Essex Junction’s municipal services and costs.





Business Owners

What will happen to my business property taxes if Essex Junction becomes a city?


Short Answer: They will decrease slightly or remain about the same. No increases are expected.

Longer Answer: Right now, the commercial property tax rate in Essex Junction is significantly higher than in the Town of Essex outside of Essex Junction. This is because owners of commercial properties in Essex Junction currently pay taxes to the Essex Junction government and the Town of Essex government. After separation, Village businesses will pay taxes only to the Essex Junction government. The Town of Essex will stop taxing properties in Essex Junction.

The new Essex Junction city government will need to increase some expenditures to replace administrative and clerical services once provided by the Town of Essex. But this increase will be offset by the overall tax decrease from no longer paying taxes to the Town. The exact difference between increase and decrease can’t be calculated at this time, but the net effect is projected to be a tax savings for Village commercial property owners




I don't own a building but I rent space. What will happen to my rent?


No changes are expected. Changing Essex Junction’s legal status from an incorporated village to an incorporated city will have no direct impact on commercial or residential rents.




Can I expect the same level of fire and police services?


Short Answer: Yes.

Longer Answer: Yes. The Essex Junction Fire Department will continue operating as usual, and the current mutual aid agreement with the Town of Essex Fire Department will remain in place. Currently the Town of Essex pays the full per capita cost of Essex Rescue services for the entire Town including the Village. The new city would have to pay for those services on its own.

The Essex Junction Trustees and Town of Essex Selectboard have agreed to negotiate a contract to continue providing Essex Police services inside Essex Junction. Both sides are motivated to reach an agreement because of the considerable cost savings from a shared police department and because the Town of Essex police facility is located in Essex Junction.




Will I have to pay more for water/sewer?


Short Answer: No.

Longer Answer: Essex Junction’s water/sewer services are financed and regulated separately from other municipal services such as fire, police, and street maintenance. Water/sewer bills are based on wholesale water charges from the Champlain Water District and the operating costs of the Essex Junction water treatment plant. None of this will be affected by changing Essex Junction’s legal status from village to city.
Tags: municipal services, business




Will separation change parking regulations? Is the Village going to add parking meters anywhere?


Short Answer: No and no.

Longer Answer: Essex Junction already has full legal authority over parking regulations within the Village’s boundaries. Separation won’t change this. The Essex Junction Trustees and staff could install parking meters in the Village downtown right now to prevent illegal long-term parking and free up more space. So far they have chosen not to do so but may reconsider the question if parking conditions worsen, regardless of whether separation happens.




What will happen in terms of economic development if separation happens? How would separation affect Village Center growth?


Short Answer: Separation would channel more local resources into economic development and downtown revitalization.

Longer Answer: Commercial property owners in Essex Junction currently support the Essex Junction community development office and the Town of Essex community development office. The two offices sometimes collaborate on overlapping areas of interest, but each is mainly concerned with promoting business growth in the areas within the jurisdiction of their respective governments. For Essex Junction, this means anywhere within the boundaries of the Village, with a primary focus on the Village downtown, the Pearl Street/Champlain Valley Expo corridor, and the Global Foundries Technology Park. For the Town of Essex, this means anywhere in the Town outside the Village, with a primary focus on the Susie Wilson Road corridor, the New Town Center at Lang Farm, and Saxon Hill.

With their tax dollars, Essex Junction commercial property owners also help pay for Essex Junction and Town of Essex capital infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, bridges, stormwater utilities, etc.) that provide the base for business development. However, commercial property owners in the Town of Essex outside Essex Junction only support the community development efforts of the Town outside of the Village, and only support capital infrastructure costs of the Town outside of the Village. They do not support community development or infrastructure improvement in the Village. Both the Essex Junction and Town of Essex governments offer tax incentives for commercial property improvements in the form of tax stabilization. This would not change with separation.

The unequal tax burden Village commercial property taxpayers bear and and the unequal allocation of resources has the effect of prioritizing business growth in the Town at the expense of the Village. It is one of the main reasons the Essex Junction Trustees pursued merger to change the status quo relationship of the Village and Town, and is now one of the key reasons they support changing Essex Junction’s legal status from village to city.
If Essex Junction becomes a city, commercial property owners in Essex Junction would no longer pay taxes to the Town of Essex. Municipal property taxes collected within Essex Junction would be directed entirely to supporting Essex Junction city services, business development, infrastructure improvement, and downtown revitalization.




I'm concerned that if we separate, Essex Junction will end up like Winooski, with no more space to develop, resulting in a shrinking revenue base. How would the Village deal with that?


Short Answer: Open, undeveloped space isn’t necessary for growing a revenue base. Also, Winooski’s financial situation is due to its bonded debt and not to its lack of open space.

Longer Answer: If open space translated directly to economic growth, most towns across northern New England and New York would be wealthy, and not competing with each other for investment. Businesses seek to locate near population centers, where they can tap into the labor supply and have access to utilities and transportation.

Most Vermont cities and towns today are more concerned with preserving their open space than with developing it for commercial use. Most try to concentrate industrial growth in designated areas--industrial zones--that have already been partially developed, have immediate access to utilities and transportation, concentrate growth away from areas designated as open space, and limit the impacts of development on areas of open space. The Global Foundries Technology Park in Essex Junction is considered Vermont’s premier industrial park, with excellent access to transportation and utilities, including the state’s only water treatment plant licensed for industrial use, and with many acres of available open space to accommodate growth for decades to come. It is set apart from the Village Center and its zoning prevents its expansion.

Essex Junction is one of the state’s leaders in revitalizing its historic downtown, with a focus on high quality, multi-story, mixed use (commercial and residential) buildings providing affordable living space for Chittenden County’s younger workforce. It has achieved these improvements and attracted investors without resorting to bonds or incurring substantial debt.

Since 2000, Essex Junction has gradually shifted its reliance away from IBM (now Global Foundries) to residential and other commercial properties, with a strategy of providing high quality cultural, educational, and recreational facilities, local walkability and connectivity, well maintained infrastructure, and other “quality of life” amenities that people are willing to support with their local tax dollars. Essex Junction is one of a handful of Vermont communities that has seen a steady increase in population of school-age children at a time when others are experiencing declining school populations.

The Essex Junction municipal government has among the highest and most stable tax bases relative to other Vermont communities of its size and, based on recent and past performance, it should see steady, sustainable growth for many years to come.




Will the Crescent Connector still happen if we separate?


Yes. The Crescent Connector--a new road slated for the Village Center that will allow traffic to bypass Five Corners--is an entirely local transportation improvement project supported by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and funded by the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The Town of Essex has no involvement with the project and separation will not affect it.




Is a local option tax part of separation?


No. The State allows local communities to levy local sales taxes on goods and services to raise revenue to fund their municipal expenditures. The elected boards of Essex Junction and the Town of Essex have had ongoing discussions about jointly adopting a local option tax and sharing the revenue. Discussions could continue and an agreement could be reached regardless of Essex Junction’s separation effort. But there is no direct link between separation and a local option tax.




Would I still have to go to the Town of Essex to get my liquor license if we separate? What if I want to sell cannabis products?


The new City of Essex Junction will take over the responsibility of approving liquor licenses for businesses within the city. State regulations about cannabis products aren’t clear at present, but any local municipal oversight of cannabis sales would come under the jurisdiction of the Essex Junction city government.




Would we still use the Town for health inspections or code violations?


The Town of Essex’ Health Officer (a statutorily required, appointed position) currently provides health and safety inspections in Essex Junction. This is one of the administrative services it provides in return for the tax revenue it collects from Essex Junction. This position might be one of the services the two governments share as a cost-savings/efficiency measure, after separation. If not, the Essex Junction government would have full authority to appoint its own Health Officer to perform health and safety inspections.




If separation happens, would the approval process for building a new building or adding on to a building change? Will permit requirements change and/or permit fees increase?


Short answer: No and no.

Longer answer: Essex Junction currently has full jurisdiction over all aspects of construction permitting and approval within the Village, including fee structures, building and development codes, and zoning regulations. The Town of Essex has no jurisdiction over any aspect of building, construction, zoning, fees, or permits within the Village boundaries. Separation would not change this, nor would separation require any kind of reorganizing or restructuring of Essex Junction’s building/permitting/zoning regulations.




What will happen to Village land records if we separate? Would I still have to go to the Town Office for Village land records?


Land records relating to transactions prior to separation would remain in the Town of Essex vault. Land records relating to transactions occurring after separation would be stored in the Essex Junction vault at Lincoln Hall.




Will there be any changes regarding the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) that would affect my business' use of the Essex Drop-Off Center?


No. Chittenden County residents and businesses may use any CSWD facility.




How will separation impact capital projects like road and water line repairs?


Short answer: No. Essex Junction currently handles all its own capital spending and this won't change with separation.

Longer answer: Essex Junction funds and manages all of its own capital projects. Essex Junction businesses contribute to these capital expenditures with their property tax dollars. The Town of Essex also taxes Essex Junction businesses to help pay for its capital projects located outside of Essex Junction. However, the Town of Essex provides no financial support for Essex Junction’s capital projects.

After separation, the Town of Essex will no longer be allowed to levy taxes inside Essex Junction, and Essex Junction businesses will no longer be taxed by the Town to help pay for capital expenditures outside of Essex Junction. For this reason, Essex Junction businesses could see an overall reduction in their municipal property tax bill after separation.




Would the Village continue to levy an economic development tax (what is referred to as the "penny tax")? If so, what would be done with it to benefit Village businesses?


The Village currently uses the approximately $120,000 raised by the economic development tax each year to help fund thoughtful growth and sustainable development in the Village Center. Some recent investments include a small parcel at Five Corners which will become a pocket park/greenspace, and free public parking space for 30 vehicles. Essex Junction voters recently approved a 3-year extension of the tax, which will probably extend through the transition from village to city. The tax will sunset after 3 years unless it’s re-approved by the voters.




Will the sidewalks in front of my business continue to be plowed?


Yes. The Essex Junction Public Works Department and all of its operating policies and schedules have always been under the jurisdiction of the Essex Junction government and Village Trustees. Transitioning from village to city will not change this.




Would there be any changes to the Green Mountain Transit bus routes or overall service we get from GMT?


No changes are anticipated with separation. Instead of contributing to GMT operations indirectly through its tax payment to the Town of Essex, Essex Junction would contribute to GMT directly. This would not change local GMT service. However, GMT continuously reviews and revises its bus routes to optimize its customer service, so bus routes can always change regardless of Essex Junction’s status as a city or village.




If we separate, would the Village maintain its state Village Center Designation and Neighborhood Area Designation? As a developer/business, would I still be able to access the benefits of these programs?


The Trustees have contacted the Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development to request that Essex Junction's Village Center and Neighborhood Development Area designations be transferred to the new city. The state's Downtown Development Board will review the request and make a ruling at the end of September.





Governance

If we separate, would we still have to go to the Town of Essex for a marriage license or a dog license? Would the Town Selectboard still handle issues with dogs?


No. With separation there would be a new City Clerk, who would offer all the same services that the Village Clerk once provided, with the addition of issuing marriage licenses and dog licenses. The City Council would have the responsibility for dog issues, including maintaining leash laws and hearing dog bite cases.




Isn’t Essex Junction just an overlay district or special taxing district of Essex Town?


Short Answer: No. Like every other charter-incorporated city, town, or village in Vermont, Essex Junction is a full-service municipal government, empowered to raise taxes to provide all municipal resources its citizens require. The entire network of the Village’s municipal service infrastructure – streets, sidewalks, bridges, water and sewer lines, parks, recreation, library, fire department, water treatment plant – was built by Essex Junction taxpayers and comes under the sole jurisdiction of the Essex Junction government. Long Answer: The main difference for incorporated villages is that they must exist within the geographic boundaries of a town, and village citizens are considered citizens of the town and must pay property taxes to the town even if town services are not provided within the village. Incorporated villages exist all over Vermont. Overlay districts and taxing districts are sections of cities and towns specially zoned for environmental or historic preservation purposes, or for providing a particular service unavailable to the rest of the community. Like any other city or town, such as Winooski or the Town of Essex, Essex Junction has full authority to write ordinances, own municipal property, regulate its zoning and development, receive federal and state grants, and interact directly with county, state, and federal agencies. All of Essex Junction’s major services – fire, library, street department, water & sewer, parks & recreation – predate their counterparts in Essex Town. Essex Junction transferred control of its police department to the Town in the 1970s, with the understanding that it would serve the entire community, to avoid having its taxpayers fund a Village police department and a separate Town department. Other than police, the Town of Essex provides some administrative and clerical services for the Village, such as the property assessor, liquor licenses, and health officer, and it pays some intergovernmental costs (such as county taxes) that Essex Junction would be required to pay as an independent city.




There are anti-separation and anti-merger folks in both the Village and the Town outside the Village. Currently the Boards are working together. What happens if we end up with "anti-whatever” people on one or both boards? How will that impact the shared services, particularly police?


Both the vote for separation and, if successful, consideration by the Vermont Legislature will occur before the Village and Town annual elections in the spring of 2022. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the current membership of the two boards will remain as it is through the pivotal periods of the Village’s separation effort. If the Village becomes a city, it’s always possible that elected officials on either side could seek to overturn any inter-municipal agreements established by the current boards. But inter-municipal agreements, such as sharing the cost of the police, are structured to benefit both sides. Newly elected officials seeking to overturn such an agreement for political purposes, and thereby impose unnecessary spending increases and/or decreases in service levels on their community, would likely face significant resistance by other board members and voters.





Champlain Valley Expo

Does the Champlain Valley Expo pay taxes to the Village? What will happen if the Expo sells off or develops part of its land? And how much of the land is in the TOV and how much is in the Village?


The Expo is a tax-exempt property and is not part of the Village’s or Town’s grand list properties for taxation. This is because of state statutes regarding agricultural venues, and not a local decision. Because it pays no property taxes, the Expo’s status won’t affect any cost sharing agreements between Essex Junction and Essex Town. The Expo provides Essex Junction $15,000 annually as a payment in lieu of taxes (aka PILOT), and it frequently makes its land and buildings available for public use--the most recent example being its serving first as an alternate hospital, then a testing site, and then a vaccination site throughout the pandemic. All of the Expo’s property is within Essex Junction. Any subdivision and sale of its properties would occur within the city boundaries, and any new opportunities for property tax assessments would be available only to the city.





Pros & Cons

Other than possible tax savings, what might be some of the other benefits of becoming a city?


Answer: The people of Essex Junction will be served by a government focused solely on their needs. All the municipal tax revenues collected from Essex Junction taxpayers will go directly to helping provide and improve most of the services they use and depend on, such as parks and recreation, water and sewer services, public works and street maintenance, community planning, library services, and fire safety.




What are the “cons” of separation? What will the Village lose if we separate from the Town? What do we lose access to in the Town?


Answer: The City would no longer receive funds from Town of Essex residents who live outside the Village to pay for such services as the Village's highway expenses. Currently the Village's highway costs ($1,191,960 in FY2021) are included within the Town of Essex's highway budget so they are paid by all Town of Essex residents. In separation these costs would come back to the City, as they were with the Village prior to 2015. Given that the Village also currently pays 42% ($1,036,790) of the Town outside of the Village's highway costs (total Town outside the Village highway budget for FY2021 is $2,468,547), while also paying 42% of the Village's highway cost through the Town taxes ($500,623), Village residents are currently paying over $1.5 million in highway costs, which is higher than if the Village had to pay only for its own costs.