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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

A Local Gas Tax?


Brattleboro is in a very tough spot. The town has suffered three severe economic blows in the past 5 years, in cascading order from national to state to local: The Mortgage Crisis, Tropical Storm Irene and the Brooks House Fire. Each event had a multiplying effect on the Town as revenue and equity evaporated from the region.

The mortgage crisis sapped equity from our homes and crippled real estate values which, in turn, crimped the tax revenue and town budgets. Tropical Storm Irene washed untold millions of equity downstream and cost millions more in repairs and rebuilding. And when the central block of your downtown lies vacant for three years, the economic scars seem fairly tangible.

Investing in heavy infrastructure like a $32 million sewage treatment and $14 million in police and fire station upgrades certainly do not seem well timed, but those decisions were made by officials that we elected, with due process.  (To be certain, the conditions of each of these facilities are poor to very poor and I urge any opponents of these projects to make a visit before casting further judgment.)

Now for the good news: Brattleboro is still here! Across the country, towns with a similar makeup as Brattleboro have been held up as examples of success: dense, mixed use, development with multifaceted economies. Real estate values in livable communities remained far more stable than elsewhere. Location efficient mortgages were nearly bulletproof when the banks cratered.

Remember, the trigger to the collapse was the jump in fuel prices. From January of 2007 to June of 2008 gas went from $2.10 to $4.10 per gallon. By September mortgages were failing at catastrophic rate.

Communities that are walkable, have strong public transportation and have dense, mixed land use are poised to be the communities of tomorrow. People need to be able to live, work, shop and relax within one community. This is what we need to build.

I suggest enacting a local gas tax. Take $0.05 for every gallon sold in Brattleboro (13 stations pumping 600gpd) and spend $140,000 per year on the following improvements to the public realm:

New Sidewalk Connections

Sidewalk Repairs

Sidewalk Snowplow

Road Striping

Tree Plantings

Street Lights

Police Foot Patrols

Street Sweeping

Trash Cans

Bike Racks

Benches

Make it a nice place to be and people will come. Populated places are active places, active places tend to see increased commerce and increased real estate values.

This is one way for the regional residents to start paying a share for the services Brattleboro provides.

Revenue shall not be used for DPW purchases of new road maintenance equipment, paving, or dirt road maintenance.

I would bet those figures are very conservative. More than 20,000 people drive into Brattleboro every day.

That's my two cents, 

 Adam Hubbard

»

Comments | 11

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Somewhat hidden fees vs. toll booths

Five cents per gallon is pretty steep. For those who drive a lot, it might be worth driving elsewhere to save that much.

I do like the idea of working to become more walkable. Perhaps closing some roads and returning them to green space would do this (and save us money.)

All these ideas of trying to pass our costs on to other communities seem weird to me, though. Let's say we do it and add all sorts of extra taxes here for visitors, and it is a great success. So much so that every other town in the country follows our leads and does the same. Everyone is charging the other guy now. What has anyone gained?

Or, let's say neighboring Anytown, VT does this and we watch them to see if we should follow. Would we increase our visits to Anytown to help them with their financial situation? Would we plan shopping trips or visits there? And how would we feel if we worked in Anytown? Welcome?

I'd be much more in favor of being direct and obvious. Let's build toll booths to collect from anyone entering town. Or sell admission tickets and day passes. That's what we really are asking. For outsiders to give us money to pay for what we decided to have here. It's not a bad idea, but we should embrace it and be honest, and perhaps then start catering to this people a bit more to raise the per cap spending on each visit.

It is interesting to think about, and will be interesting to see what these improvements to facilities do to the pocketbooks of residents and visitors we can hit up to chip in for them.

 
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Let's say

I guess I'd be in favor of finding out what happens if we found great success.

 
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With the current gas prices I

With the current gas prices I think a 5 cent hike would be more than a lot of people could -or would pay. I love the idea of making the town more walking friendly . Of course that would involve doing some work on all the sidewalks that are falling apart. And it would be wonderful to have public transportation that ran more frequently than once every hour or hour and a half. When CRT changed the schedules 2 years ago and did away with buses overlapping at the Transportation Center so people could make easy transfers they lost a lot of riders. It's a pretty inefficient and rider unfriendly system right now.If we had a dependable public transportation system a lot of people would use that rather than drive.

 
 #

I pay, you pay, we all pay

It's either property owners or people that drive, or people that shop, or people that own businesses, but costs are going up and we all need pay more until town reps or the selectboard cut costs.

and considering everybody just paid 10cents more today for gas than they did last month, another 5cents will not bankrupt anybody. If it does, they should ditch the car and move to where they work.

Heck, even the live free or die state is on board:

"N.H. Senate considers hiking gas, diesel tax 4 cents
Thursday, March 27th, 2014, 2:44 AM" Brattleboro Reformer

 
 #

It's all I got

I've always thought toll booths would be a good idea too, but they would cost too much, slow down traffic and be a blight on the landscape.

A regional or county tax would work too.

But raising property taxes in a declining real estate market, while continuing to increase spending surely cannot end well.

$0.05/gallon equates to 1.5% of the current price, so I really think it should be 5% tax.

And I have no qualms about making it obvious: a primary problem with the current system is that 20,000 people come to Brattleboro everyday to benefit from the jobs, services and amenities, but get to go back to Guilford, Chesterfield, Dummerston and Putney without having to chip in.

If we made Bratt a more attractive place to live and made commuting more expensive, the real estate market might then start to bounce back. Then we we'd we might even see things really turn around...

$0.05/gallon is a pretty typical price difference across town, so I doubt people would care that much. If they did, and were motivated by the price hike they can drive to the two stations outside of Brattleboro; Chesterfield and Route 30 in Dummerston. Beyond that there's one Putney. And beyond that????

 
 #

Uncommon knowledge

You are now paying the lowest taxes paid by any American all the way back to Truman. The stock market is higher than it has ever been, corporate profits are higher than they have ever been. Corporations have $2.7 billion dollars stored overseas and they can't think of anything to do with it. Probably that black Kenyon Commie bastard Hussein Obama has done it again.

 
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Correction

Now I'm doing it as well. That is 2.7 TRILLION not billion.

 
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I'd guess most gas stations

I'd guess most gas stations are pumping 3-5,000 gallons per day, not 600. Stations near highways might top 10,000 gallons/day. Thus, even a two cent gas tax would be very lucrative for the town.
Another way to improve our revenues is to take some big tickets off the exempt rolls. For instance the hospital. They'd probably be paying 6-700,000 dollars/yr. They would add that cost into their budget and then every user would pay a share, not just Brattleboro taxpayers. Schools should be tax exempt only for their "homestead" property, not the extra hundred acres of grounds.
Another idea is to have permit parking on non-metered streets in or near commercial areas. Residents might get one permit free. Others pay $500/yr. Two dollars a day for parking is not exhorbitant.
Be nice if the state added several cents per gallon to increase funding for environmental protection and cleanup.
A tax on natural resources (everything extracted from the ground) and do away with sales taxes nationwide.

Or simpler yet, higher progressive income taxes and do away with sales taxes in that way. Maybe most of the school taxes as well.

 
 #

I suggest

Not taxing, find the funding by economizing current programs, taxing is the easy way out!

 
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Property tax relief

First start with cutting the increases in spending. Then find items to cut in all the department budgets. Then find new revenue. Just like most families have done in the past 6 years.

On the revenue side, 'Not Taxing' is not an option, but a more equitable tax is an option.

With many large institutions getting free and reduced lunch, with increasing amounts of subsidized housing, with a declining commercial property base, with more regional residents leaning on municipal services, the property tax burden has shifted heavily to residential property owners in brattleboro. The state helps with income based property tax rebates, but the pattern seems unsustainable in the long run.

Again, it's time find an equitable revenue stream and build a community that draws activity, investment and commerce.

 
 #

The taxables

I also have some ideas for taxes that Brattleboro could levy:

Airspace tax.
Every day small private planes, commuter aircraft, military aircraft, and international flights fly over Brattleboro. The town should levy an airspace tax on every passenger in an aircraft. Say, around $10 per person.

Use of Trademarked name.
Brattleboro, as the one and only Brattleboro, should trademark its name. Whenever the name is used, except for official town use, a fee can be imposed. For instance, the Brattleboro Co-op would pay a licensing fee for using the name.

Fluminous discharge fee.
Every day, Brattleboro must deal with water flowing into its borders from streams and rivers in other towns. In some cases this water originates several towns away! Any town that contributes water that eventually flows over Brattleboro's borders should have to pay a per-gallon fluminous discharge fee.

The good news is that each one of these ideas (and I have many more) can be passed by the town as easily as a gas tax.

 

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