Merger / Separation Quick Study

by Irene Wrenner

October 1, 2020

1) Essex is one town, chartered in 1763. The Village of Essex Junction was chartered in 1893 within the town. The remainder is known as the Town-outside-the-Village (TOV), or “Essex Center”.

2) “Merger” is used to describe various failed efforts, since 1958, to dissolve the Village of Essex Junction’s government and transfer its assets, liabilities, services and taxes to the Town of Essex.

3) Village and TOV residents are all residents of the town and pay Town taxes for a variety of Town services. They tend to identify by their geographic area. 

4) Village residents also pay Village Taxes for a variety of Village services. Some are quite similar to Town services. 

5) “Double taxation” describes how Village residents pay taxes to the two, nested municipalities in which they reside. Village residents vote each year to pay for services that may or may not resemble those they also vote to pay for as Town residents.

6) The populations of both areas are equal, but they have never been equally represented in Town government as the Selectboard has always been an odd number. 

7) A plan for equal representation was passed in March by 61% of voters, but the Village Trustees haven’t included that model in the Merger Charter being voted on in November.

8) The Selectboard’s version of the Merger Charter provides for equal representation. Because both boards haven’t yet agreed on a common plan of merger, the SB didn’t warn a November vote.

9) To eliminate paying toward two budgets, Village residents have options:

  • Merger would shift Village taxes, assets and liabilities to the Town as a whole;

  • Separation would no longer nest the Village and TOV within a larger entity. Village and TOV residents would no longer pay for each others’ services. Each would gain local control;

  • Separate-and-Share would preserve identity and local control, by separating as municipalities but still sharing some entities (for example, Police and the Reservoir); or

  • Dissolution would automatically shift assets, liabilities and control to the whole Town in a less-organized way than merger.