2012 will be remembered as an extraordinarily difficult year for Brattleboro residents. Since January the Vermont Legislature has voted out of committee to increase the state education tax rate by five cents; to increase the gas tax by two cents with another eight cent increase in the future; and to tax any drink containing sugar at one cent per ounce that will add thirty-three cents to the price of a liter.
At the local level property owners will be hit with a projected utility budget deficit of $600,000; the annual increase in the water and sewer rates for the new treatment plant; the increase in property taxes for the new fire and police station; the increase in the town operating budget; the increase in the town school budget; and the increase in the BUHS budget. Adding to the taxpayer’s misery is a town grand list that has flat-lined.
What is a homeowner suppose to do?
Recommendation #1: Understand what you are up against at the local level. The last time Representative Town Meeting reduced a town or school budget was thirty years ago in 1983. Whether it’s the school system or the town, any and all budget questions at Town Meeting will elicit the following responses.
“Approximately 99% of the budget is fixed or negotiated which no one can do anything about. We have reviewed the budget line by line and have cut hundreds of thousands of dollars before we presented this budget to town meeting. This budget reflects the current economy. This budget is bare bones. This budget is essentially level funded. A level funded budget is in fact a budget cut. If you want to reduce the budget then tell us right now in specific detail where you would make those cuts. From what we understand residents in town do not want service reductions. The town’s infrastructure is falling apart. You can’t have it both ways. We are doing the very best that we can. It’s an issue of priorities. Unfunded state mandates are the real problem. We have done our due diligence. Seventy-five percent of property owners in town receive a property tax rebate, so the budget increases are in fact minimal. Do you want to put people’s lives at risk? We don’t control the weather. Borrowing money to build new infrastructure improves the local economy. Federal budget cutbacks are hurting the most vulnerable who need our help. All of our budget problems will go away when we have a single payer health care system, so please contact your representatives in Montpelier immediately!”
Listen to the school board very carefully. They have perfected the technique of guilt budgeting by taking their proposed budget increase from the previous year (example $200,000), dividing that amount by the number of days in the school year, dividing that answer by the number of students in the school system, and dividing that answer by the number of hours in a school year. This allows them to respond “oh, are you telling us that the taxpayers of Brattleboro cannot afford an additional $.65 cents per student per class hour? This budget is not the issue. The real issue …. (pause - voice rises) …. is the future of OUR children!” In response Town Meeting Reps roll over like Rover and play dead.
What is a homeowner suppose to do?
Recommendation #2: Understand what you are up against at the state level. Aside from the one new tax and two tax increases voted out of legislative committees, with a third tax increase expected on cigarettes and tobacco, the legislature has been hard at work on the following critical issues to all Vermonter’s costing taxpayers $250,000 a week.
H-37 would designate the painted turtle as Official State Reptile. H-171 would designate any dog adopted from an animal shelter as the Official State Dog. H-189 would designate the Bucktail Streamer as the Official State Fishing Fly. H-386 would designate the Tri-Color Bumblebee as the Official State Insect. S-64 would designate Kale as the Official State Vegetable.
HCR-002 designated January 10, 2013 as Homeless Awareness Day. HCR-003 designated January 11, 2013 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. HCR-014 designated the week of January 20th as Nurse Anesthetics Week. HCR-024 designated February 1, 2013 as Wear Red Day. SCR-002 congratulates Angeleno Pizza for remaining in business for 30 years.
With our legislature dubbing around in Montpelier for five months pretending to be important, what is a homeowner suppose to do?
Recommendation #3: Don’t think about the current tax and spending crises at the town and state level. They are on autopilot. Offset your property and utility taxes by shifting 100% of your disposable income into New Hampshire. Doing so, right now, eliminates current and future consumer tax hikes by the Vermont Legislature and Representative Town Meeting. Do the math. The potential savings are enormous when you eliminate the expense of parking meters, parking fines, parking permits, the sales tax, the state meals tax, the local meals tax, the state alcohol tax, the ever increasing gas tax, the diesel tax, the pending sugar tax, the sales tax on beer, the bottle deposit tax, and the local sales tax option that Town Meeting Reps will be forced to accept sooner rather than later.
Recommendation #4: Understand the retail landscape to implement your strategy. The Exit 3 Roundabout is your ticket out of Tax Armageddon. Just across the Chesterfield Bridge is the Riverside Grocery that sells more beer and soft drinks in one day than all the stores in Brattleboro sell in one week. On average a case of beer at Riverside is four dollars cheaper than in Brattleboro. If the Legislature enacts a new tax on sweetened drinks, it provides one more good reason to shop in New Hampshire.
Just beyond the Riverside Grocery, opening soon, is a huge New Hampshire state liquor store. Oh well, there goes Vermont’s alcohol and bottle deposit tax. Beyond the new liquor store is a new tire dealer which makes three tire retailers in Chesterfield within easy distance of the Exit 3 roundabout. Tires are expensive. Oh well, there goes the Vermont sales tax. Across from Pete’s Tire Barn, formerly located in Brattleboro, is Perkins Home Center. Oh well, there goes the Vermont sales tax on hardware and building products. Don’t forget the Shell gas station. Oh well, there goes the ever increasing Vermont gas tax, the Vermont diesel tax, the Vermont tobacco tax, the Vermont sales tax on beer, the Vermont bottle tax, and the pending Vermont tax on drinks with sugar. This one is a six bagger.
Now the tax savings really begin. At the first Route 9 traffic light in Keene on your right is Vermont Cabinets. Imagine that. A Vermont company opening a new facility in New Hampshire enabling Vermont residents to purchase Vermont made products with no sales tax. I wonder if our legislators who live in a plastic bubble have a clue as to the number of Vermont businesses they have exported into New Hampshire. I can name ten from Windham County alone. We won’t discuss the loss of one-thousand white collar C&S jobs in Brattleboro that Act 250 sent to Keene. Those who earn their living in the planning and permitting process at both the state and local level in town make-believe that never happened. As Forest Gump once said, “stupid is, stupid does.”
If you take a left at the first Route 9 traffic light in Keene there is another NH state liquor store along with Dick’s Sporting Goods, Game Stop, Home Depot, Michael’s Crafts, Party Store, Pier One Imports, Price Chopper, Sleepy’s, Target, Chili’s, Longhorn Steak House, and Olive Garden. On Friday and Saturday nights you will always find a contingency of Brattleboro residents in these three restaurants to schmooze with. At the first Route 9 Rotary in Keene is Advanced Auto Parts, Applebee’s, CVS, Dollar Tree, Five Guys, Key Road Car Wash, Key Road Cinema, McDonalds, Olympia Sports, Pet Stop, Radio Shack, Sherwin Williams, Springfield Tire, Staples, TJ Max, Verizon, Wal-Mart, and a Sunoco where you can redeem your Price Chopper credits and pay no Vermont gas tax.
Recommendation #5: To financially offset the tax and spend mindset of Representative Town Meeting and the Vermont Legislature requires fiscal discipline. First, acquire a credit card that offers 2% cash back on everyday purchases and 5% cash back on gas. Second, attach a savings account to your checking account to accumulate the funds needed to pay your property tax and utility bills. Third, promise yourself that under no circumstances will you spend any of your disposable income in Brattleboro. Fourth, do your homework.
Example #1: You decide to paint your home. It will require a total of twenty gallons of primer and paint for two coats. Because you want to do a quality job worth your time and expense, you do not buy the junk paint made in China sold at Wal-Mart. The cost of twenty gallons of primer and paint at Sherwin-Williams on Putney Road is $780 plus $46.80 in sales tax for a total of $826.80. The sum of $826.80 is your paint budget which is the maximum that will be deducted from your checking account.
Home Depot in Keene sells Behr Paint whose top of the line is equivalent to Sherwin Williams. More importantly, the computers in the Home Depot paint department have the color mixing formulas for every manufacturer of paint – Benjamin Moore, California, Pittsburg, Sherwin Williams, and even Valspar which is the paint sold in Lowe’s. The cost of the twenty gallons of the top of the line primer and paint at Home Depot matched to any color you desire is $499.80 with no sales tax. Pay the $499.80 with your 2% cash back credit card that reduces your credit card bill by $9.99. Subtract from your original paint budget of $826.80 the $499.80 paid to Home Depot plus the 2% credit of $9.99 for a total savings of $317.01. Use your iPhone to transfer your $317.01 savings from your checking account into your savings account.
Congratulations! By spending your disposable income in New Hampshire you saved on that one transaction enough money to pay for one year your Brattleboro water and sewer bills. The greedy oinkers in Montpelier get nothing. As previously stated, this mindset requires discipline but will reward you big time over the long haul.
Example #2: A true story. A family member needs dental surgery. The dental surgeon in Brattleboro quoted $2,200. The sum of $2,200 is your surgery budget which is the maximum that will be deducted from your checking account. When asked if the surgeon would discount the bill for full payment up front (no credit card), the answer was “no” which indicated he was overpricing himself. A dental surgeon in Keene agreed to perform the exact same one hour surgery, with full payment up front (no credit card) for $1,200 representing a stunning $1,000 savings. Transfer the $1,000 from your checking account into your savings account.
Congratulations! By spending your disposable income in New Hampshire you saved on that one transaction enough money to pay a substantial chunk of your ever increasing Brattleboro property tax bill. The tax loss to Montpelier is the loss of income tax the dental surgeon in Brattleboro did not receive that begs the following question.
Why is everything so expensive in Brattleboro? Answer: Property Taxes.
When a homeowner pays their property taxes it reduces their disposable income. When a business in Brattleboro pays their property taxes it is an expense which is a cost of goods sold reflected in the price of the product sold or service performed. That is why everything is so expensive in Brattleboro. The net effect when a homeowner in town spends their after tax income buying locally they are in fact paying Brattleboro property taxes twice which makes no financial sense.
In testimony last month in the Vermont Legislature, economist Art Woolf stated that since 1969 when the sales tax was enacted through 2008, Vermont has lost a half a BILLION dollars in tax revenue to New Hampshire. It’s called the Law of Diminishing Returns that neither our Legislature nor Representative Town Meeting understands. The more revenue they want to spend by taxing more, the less revenue they receive because Brattleboro residents have the geographic opportunity to opt out. Vermont is not an island in the middle of an ocean.
That is how you offset the tax and spend pandemic in Vermont. And best of all, there is absolutely nothing that the tax and spend mental midgets in Brattleboro or Montpelier can do about it.
P.S. If any of the iBrattleboro readers find this article upsetting, please feel free to absorb your tears with a box of Kleenex purchased at Target in Keene. They have the lowest prices. The money you save can be used to pay for your therapy sessions with your psychiatrist that will put you in a better frame of mind when you are working on the Brattleboro Town Plan.