Editor’s note: The following letter was submitted by the Killington Selectboard on behalf of the citizens of the town of Killington, to Speaker of the House Shap Smith in response to his request to submit proposals for economic development and job growth strategies for consideration in this legislative biennium.
As elected officials, we too have focused on making economic development a priority in Killington. In 2012, we adopted a strategic plan designed to make the Town Vermont’s premier resort community, offering residents a high quality of life and tourists a memorable mountain adventure.
One of the major goals in our Strategic Plan—and key to our economic growth—is to increase tourism and year-round employment. We have a whole host of actions we are taking to accomplish this goal, and we’re making progress, but we could make even more progress with additional state support. Therefore, we would like to respectfully submit the following issues we see as challenges to progress that could be addressed in the legislature:
(1) We believe Vermont’s current education funding system is inhibiting the growth of tourism communities which are primary drivers in our state’s economy.
By placing huge tax burdens on tourism towns like ours, Act 60 and 68 have dramatically limited businesses’ ability to reinvest in capital improvements and marketing and keep pace with their competitors in other states. For example, as a result of Act 60 and 68, Killington Resort saw a 345 percent increase in their property taxes from 1996 to 2012. As a result the Resort had to defer improvements and marketing campaigns they otherwise would have implemented to keep pace with competitive resorts in other states like New Hampshire, Maine, Colorado, California and Utah that don’t have similar limitations.
In light of the recent report from the Vermont Legislature on Act 60 (also known as the Equal Educational Opportunity Act), which notes that while Vermont has experienced the largest growth of per-pupil spending in the country (149.9 percent between 1999 and 2011), the results during that period have been relatively flat, or exhibit only modest increases. We support strong schools and think “substantially equal access” to education for all Vermont students should be measured by quality education, not simply equal funding. Currently, our contributions to fund education inhibit our ability to grow economically, yet those funds have not improved the education of Vermont students as a whole. In our estimation, the effect of Act 60 and 68, while well intentioned, has produced a net loss for the State. We advocate that the State seriously reconsider its education funding policy.
Tourism is one of the major pillars of the state economy, and we need effective state systems in place that offer residents a high quality of life while not limiting essential growth.
(2) We understand that Vermont tourism is getting outpaced by states that represent our biggest competition and compete for the same market.
The State has a strong tourism promotion program, and a talented and capable tourism commissioner, but we are consistently outpaced and outspent by states that represent our biggest competition: New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Colorado, and Utah. All these states compete for a similar market of tourists, and for Vermont to maintain its competitive edge, we advocate the state increase its funding for tourism promotion to ensure we have equal representation in our key markets.
Thank you for considering our perspective. We are glad to have the opportunity to voice our concerns and would like to offer a standing invitation for you to come to Killington to meet with our business community to further explore these and other ways the Town can work with the State to ensure a bright economic future for Vermont. We wish you the best in the next session. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Seth Webb, Town Manager at 802-422-3241 or via email at [email protected] anytime.
J. Christopher Bianchi
for the Killington Selectboard