from today's Union Leader:
KILLINGTON, Vt. â€” Weary from bearing a crushing property tax burden, this small ski resort town 35 miles from the New Hampshire border will continue its effort to rejoin its Granite State roots.
By a nearly 3-1 margin, townspeople voted at their town meeting yesterday to keep up their battle, if only to draw attention to their plight by lawmakers in Montpelier.
Article 5 on the warrant asked residents if they wanted the selectmen to discontinue their "efforts to become a municipality in New Hampshire." A no vote defeated the article. The final tally was 117 no votes and 45 yes votes.
A line of Killington, Vt., voters await their turn yesterday to speak on the town's effort to rejoin New Hampshire. (LORNA COLQUHOUN)Â
"This is a last-resort effort," said Town Manager David Lewis, explaining to several hundred residents the dozens of ways the town has tried to fight the statewide property tax. "We've tried to do this other ways . . . the only other thing is to accept the statewide property tax as a fair and equitable tax."
A study commissioned by the selectmen before last year's town meeting concluded that the fiscal impact of rejoining New Hampshire would mean that businesses and residents would save annual total of at least $7 million per year and up to $12 million per year in taxes should the town become a municipality of New Hampshire instead of Vermont.
This year's town meeting did not draw the attention it did last year. There was no New Hampshire flag raised and there were no representatives from the Granite State observing the meeting.
But a year later, town officials said, taxes are still rising and legislators are not hearing their plea for relief.
"I love Vermont," said Selectman Walter "Butch" Findeisen. "Unfortunately, this state is moving in a direction it has never moved before. They are taking advantage of us."
A year ago, officials called the effort "rejoining" New Hampshire, since the town was originally chartered by the Granite State before the Revolutionary War. At yesterday's meeting, the term "secession" was the word.
"I don't see that we have a choice," Findeisen said. "If we don't continue with secession, I don't see us as having any hope at all of rectifying this situation and this seems to be the only thing Montpelier is listening to."
Selectmen said they have spoken to nine towns in the last year that seek to follow Killington's lead. Voters in Winhall were considering whether to spend $10,000 on investigating the possibility of seceding to New Hampshire.
Killington residents who spoke in favor of continuing the effort said yesterday they realized Vermont would never approve of the action, but they need to follow the course in the hope it will ultimately lead to change.
Lewis and the three selectmen visited Concord three times last year.
"Montpelier does not know what is best for us," Selectman Norman Holcomb said. "We need to take back local control â€” we need to take back local control and create leverage."
It impressed him, he said, that the bill introduced to the New Hampshire House this session, which would explore Killington rejoining the state, "had a list of expenses created because of this bill.
"It was $15,000 and that's nothing," he said. "But that's the way New Hampshire runs its state government â€” they're very conscious of what goes on."
But not all residents favored continuing the effort.
Innkeeper Otto Iannantuoni said the town has made its point and it is time to move on.
"No legislator or governor will ever allow this," he said. "I urge you to vote yes (to discontinue the effort) and close this chapter in the town's history and rejoin the Vermont community."
Town officials argued that the effort so far has had an impact and there have been no negative aspects.
"This is making the biggest impact," said resident Diane Rosenbloom. "They may not let us go, but they are being forced to listen to us. We don't have the leverage if we vote yes (to the article). We'll have to lie down and let them step all over us."
One resident said the effort has made the town a "laughingstock" around the state and suggested it was time to update the town's charter, which has its roots in New Hampshire.
"Some people were tee-heeing last year, but now that they see what we have done, they want to do the same," argued resident Kathy Fitzgerald.
At the start of the town meeting, state Rep. Peter Chen talked to the town about what has been happening in Montpelier and in the town.
"When you consider the secession issue, you have to ask yourselves if this is the way to promote change," he said.
Two longtime residents told Chen they are very close to not being able to afford to keep their homes.
"Our family is very close to being unable to live in Killington," one man said, noting that his taxes have risen from $2,200 five years ago to $10,000.
The residents voted by ballot this year, unlike last year, when the decision to pursue becoming a part of New Hampshire passed on a voice vote.
"This is a wonderful windmill to tilt against," one man said.