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Forum, May 23: Rivendell budget story perpetuated Vt. tax confusion

Published: 5/22/2020 10:00:16 PM
Modified: 5/22/2020 10:00:03 PM
Rivendell budget story perpetuated Vt. tax confusion

Many thanks to Tim Camerato for writing such an in-depth article on Rivendell’s upcoming budget vote (“Rivendell budget pitches double-digit tax hikes,” May 20). Unfortunately, by missing two key points, it perpetuates confusion about school taxes in Vermont.

First, the common level of appraisal (CLA) is a huge driver in year-to-year fluctuation in Vermont property taxes, especially in small towns. This is why Fairlee’s proposed tax rate is going up so much more than Vershire’s or West Fairlee’s.

The thing to pay attention to is the number before CLA adjustment.

That rate, even with the proposed budget, has increased by an average of less than 1.8% per year since 2016. Meanwhile, Orford taxpayers, who are spared Vermont’s CLA drama, have seen an average increase of 1.6% per year. Not a bad record, considering double-digit increases in health insurance every one of those years.

Second, the vast majority of Rivendell Interstate School District taxpayers will not actually pay the rates described in this article.

In the Vermont towns, most residents (80% in Fairlee) have their property taxes capped by income. Fairlee also has a large number of properties owned by non-residents. These folks, and business owners, all pay property taxes, but their rate is set by the state and is not at all linked to Rivendell’s budget.

There is no doubt that we will emerge from this pandemic into a changed world. There will be winners and losers. Decisions made now will determine where we land. Now is the time to reach out to your neighbor, build business partnerships, get high-speed internet to our towns, and vote for a strong school system.

Let’s give our new superintendent and school principals the tools they need to turn our schools and towns into thriving destinations.

KATHY HOOKE

Vershire

The writer is vice chair of the Rivendell School Board.

Respite from noise at range was nice

I am confident I speak for the Plainfield and Cornish communities in thanking Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter for silencing the Hammond Cove shooting range in Hartland until May 16. The additional month of peace and quiet was a reminder of the country nature that I enjoyed from 1980, when I built my home, until the shooting range opened in 2012.

The re-opening of the range and the gunfire noise remains an issue, and is a big problem for me. It seems especially unfair for Vermont to allow this while there is a state of emergency declared and people are under stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic. I ask Scott and Porter to please extend the range shutdown to allow us peace at least until the current stay-at-home situation is resolved.

And when will the state of Vermont finally recognize the loss of my right to the peaceful enjoyment of my property?

Despite the money spent by Vermont taxpayers (plus the National Rifle Association dollars funding the opening of the range) and the mitigation measures taken, the quality of life for your neighbors across the river, where the noise is directly channeled, remains significantly and negatively impacted by this noise nuisance.

DAN DEWEY

Plainfield

Bear with us, we’re just visitors here

We’ve been reading in the Valley News that bears are more plentiful and active than usual this spring. But in 44 years we’d never seen or heard about a bear in the middle of Strafford’s Upper Village, where we live. So we thought it would be safe to put up our bird feeder last week.

For a couple of days we enjoyed visits from chipping and white-throated sparrows, tufted titmice, chickadees, rose-breasted grosbeaks, clouds of goldfinches, even a pair of indigo buntings.

Then, one night, we had a different kind of visitor. We heard a crash about 10 p.m. and looked out to see a mature black bear dining on the sunflower seeds from our now-destroyed feeder. Bruinhilda, we’re calling her, looked sleek and fat — much larger than a Saint Bernard but not much smaller than a Volkswagen. She (or he, we’re not sure which) was totally unconcerned by our efforts to take her picture or by our poor dog’s frantic barking.

We wondered how Bruinhilda found our feeder. Then it occurred to us that she must regularly canvass the whole neighborhood looking for something to eat.

The bear’s visit reminded us how lucky we are to live in the midst of this beautiful, wild kingdom. It was an exciting distraction from the tedium of confinement during the pandemic.

It was also a reminder that we are just visitors here.

STEPHEN and
ELIZABETH DYCUS

Strafford

Frightening reality of Trump’s lies and incompetence

In his May 14 Forum letter (“The frightening prospect of a Biden presidency”) Jeff Lehmann grants that “President Donald Trump has a number of personal characteristics that are not admirable.” He concludes by stating that, come November, he will not vote for Trump, but against former Vice President Joe Biden.

Personal characteristics that are not admirable? Compulsive lying, self-absorbed hucksterism, vengefulness, personal greed, deliberately divisive speech and behavior passed off as leadership, all rooted in flat-out incompetence. The man would have a hard time managing the pasture parking at the Tunbridge World’s Fair.

Wasting precious time whining about the attributes or shortcomings of any candidate from any party will not get us far. Unfortunately, between now and November, millions and millions of dollars — can you think of a better use for that money? — will be spent on ads with disinformation, smears and personal attacks.

Talking heads have already started banging the drum. It will only get louder and more reckless in the months ahead.

However, let me get back to those “personal characteristics.” Bravado, arrogance, stupidity, knowingly misleading the public, promoting ignorant, half-baked medical treatments that can harm and kill people. Spare us all the “deep state” nonsense as we witness daily how many dedicated federal employees do what they can for the country while working under rampant mismanagement from so-called “leaders.”

Thousands have died and thousands more are suffering, health care and front-line workers continue to be at risk, all unnecessarily, because of one insecure sociopath who plays on the angst of honest, hardworking people who four years ago wanted a change in government.

Media fearmongers defend and praise the inaction and lying while adding more fuel to the fire of a divide-and-conquer political strategy.

If you plan to go to the polls in November, vote for something and for someone you believe in. What do you want this country to stand for? How do you want our government to function? What do you want for your grandchildren?

TERRY BOONE

Norwich




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