Local News

Woodstock’s 1% option sales tax headed for recount

By Katy Savage

Woodstock’s 1% option tax is heading for a recount.

The option tax, which would add 1% to the state’s 6% sales tax locally, failed 426-417 on Town Meeting Day, March 1.

Woodstock Town Clerk Charles Degener said the close vote was rare for the town.

“The last time we had a recount was more than 15 years ago,” said Degener.

The ballots will be recounted by hand on Thursday, March 10 after a resident requested a recount on Monday, March 7. The ballots were originally counted by machine.

Karim Houry, the owner of Woodstocker B&B, petitioned for the original item to be on the ballot and was originally disappointed it failed by just nine votes.

“I’m hoping it’s a wake up call for the merchants and other people who have fought against it,” Houry said. “We need to diversify our sources of revenue. It can’t all come from property taxes.”

Houry, who has owned Woodstock B&B for four years, said he collected research from the Vermont Department of Taxes. He estimated the option tax would bring up to $200,000 a year in revenue to the town.

Woodstock already has a 1% option tax on rooms and meals, which goes to the Woodstock Economic Development Commission to fund various projects. The 1% tax on rooms and meals brings about $270,000 to the town a year.

“I feel strongly that as much as my business and other hospitality businesses are contributing close to $300,000 on meals and room tax, I feel the merchants need to do their part too,” Houry said.

Some merchants have been strongly against the tax, explaining the option tax would put an additional strain on them as they compete for business with neighboring tax-free New Hampshire.

Houry pointed to upcoming large expenditures the town is grappling with, including a new high school and upgrades to the Town Hall.

“Things are not going to get better, the infrastructure is crumbling everywhere,” Houry said.

Some have argued in favor of the option tax because it would bring money directly to the town from potential marijuna sales. Woodstock opted to allow cannabis retail shops in the town on Town Meeting Day, 448-337.

Victoria Littlefield, who is on a commission overseeing the marijuana proposal in Woodstock, said a couple of prospective retailers have already reached out to her.

“My reaction was ‘oh my god,’ we have a lot of work to do now,” she said. “We have to figure out the licensing, the local control and other regulations as well.”

The Annual Village Meeting was postponed from March 15 to March 24 afte the Village Trustees opted to remove the option tax from the ballot. Town leaders got clarification from the state and determined the option tax would be collected in both the town and village if approved by the town. If it remained on the ballot, it would have amounted to a 2% option sales tax in the village.

The village is voting on marijuana during its annual meeting. An informational meeting is scheduled for March 15.

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