by Jeremy Hansen
Not long ago, many people believed that tomatoes were poisonous since they were in the same family as nightshade. If the “common sense” is that something is harmful, most people will not be willing to challenge that and find out for themselves. After all, a bite of that juicy fruit could mean getting sick!Of course, people who actually ate the fruit were fine.
Vermont allows towns just one way to raise money to pay for essential services like police coverage and highway maintenance: property taxes. Whenever costs increase in the town, property taxes go up.
One option several towns are exploring is the Local Option Tax (LOT). A LOT provides a different source of revenue that’s not tied to town residents and businesses. Some people believe that local option taxes (LOTs) are poisonous, though. A common article of faith among some is that all taxes are bad.
That must mean that LOTs are bad, too, because it contains the word “tax”.
The position of anti-LOT people is that a LOT harms economic growth. I didn’t know if this was true, so I was interested in finding data that would show the LOT’s effects on economic growth. I did not find any that applied to Vermont, so I did my own analysis on the towns that have enacted LOTs.
Surprisingly, the data shows that, compared to the rest of Vermont, economic growth in those towns improved after adoption of a LOT!
While the recent emotional reactions to LOTs conclude that they are poisonous and harmful to the economy, those towns who have exercised their local control have all discovered LOTs to be a valuable tool to reduce property tax burdens. Montpelier and Barre voters should be courageous, go with the informed choice and support the LOTs on Town Meeting Day.
Jeremy Hansen is the Vice Chair of the Berlin Selectboard and Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Norwich University.