On February 12, 2015

Woodstock mulls local options tax

By Stephen Seitz

WOODSTOCK–When Woodstock voters assemble for Town Meeting, one thing they’ll be asked to consider is a one-percent local options tax on rooms, meals, and alcohol.

Charles Kimbell, head of Woodstock’s Economic Development Commission, said the tax would raise about $160,000 a year. Kimbell said this isn’t because the town needs more money.

“The options tax is applied in different ways,” he said. “Woodstock needs to secure its future. We’re not running out of general funds for the bridges and culverts. This money would be working for the future.”

Kimbell said the money would be used to promote the town to businesses and potential residents. Some of the money would be used to support community-wide events, such as the annual Bookstock festival, and to make the town generally more attractive. The money would also be used for administration.

“We’d be working to secure Woodstock’s place as one of the prettiest towns in America,” Kimbell said.

Some towns use the local options tax as a boost to the sales tax, but Kimbell said that wouldn’t be a good idea for Woodstock. He cited Brattleboro, which also has a local options tax on rooms, meals and alcohol, and its proximity to New Hampshire, which doesn’t have a sales tax.

“Brattleboro sees New Hampshire every day,” he said. “The effect on retail is something we’re worried about.”

Despite that, Kimbell said most people wouldn’t notice an extra one percent. “One percent is not significant,” he said. “The Woodstock Inn is our largest hospitality venue, and they’ve concluded it wouldn’t hurt their business. . . . If you’ve had a $50 meal, the tax would be 50 cents,” Kimbell said, adding that Woodstock’s board of selectmen support the project.

Jason Merrill of the Worthy Kitchen and others have opposed the measure. Merrill was not available for comment prior to press.

According to Vermont’s Department of Taxes, towns may vote to add one percent to the current sales tax and to the taxes for rooms, meals and alcohol. If applied to the sales tax, it would rise from 6 percent to 7 percent; meals would rise from 9 percent to 10 percent; alcohol would rise from 10 percent to 11 percent; and rooms would rise from 9 percent to 10 percent.

According to the state, the towns now utilizing all the local option taxes (for sales, rooms, meals and alcohol) are Dover, Killington, Manchester, Middlebury, Rutland Town, South Burlington, Stratton, St. Albans Town, Williston, Wilmington, and Winhall.

Burlington has only added a local options sales tax. Brattleboro is the only town so far which has raised only the rooms, meals, and alcohol local options tax.

Woodstock voters will decide whether to adopt the tax when they go to the polls on March 3.

The article, Article XII, reads: “Shall the voters approve a 1% local options tax on rooms, meals and alcoholic beverages, pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 138, the revenues from which will be used for municipal economic development purposes, to invest  in the future health and prosperity of the Town of Woodstock by promoting the town to potential visitors, residents and businesses, and by funding special projects that benefit the community. (Australian Ballot).”

If approved, 60 percent of the money raised would go to promotion and recruitment, 30 percent would support community-wide projects, and the rest (10 percent) would go to administering the campaigns.

“It’s the belief of the board that this is worth doing,” Kimbell said. “Now, it’s up to the voters in March.”

Those seeking further information may email Charles Kimbell, at kbellvt@gmail.com.

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