By Rep. Mike Yantachka
The Doyle Poll, created and still conducted by former Senator Bill Doyle, has been a tradition of Town Meetings in Vermont for decades. Only 109 Charlotte voters shared their opinions this year, about half of last year’s number. Of the 15 questions, ten seemed to me to be either obvious or too ambiguous to allow a clear interpretation of the results.
Clearly, most people think we need to do a lot more to address the opiate crisis, the abuse and neglect of children, and the identification of water pollution sources. Identifying pollution sources is important, but what is the willingness of people to spend tax dollars on cleanup? Whether or not one is satisfied with Vermont’s health care does not address why. Is the price too high? Does VT Health Connect still not work?
The questions and answers I found helpful were numbers 3, 5, 8, 10 and 11. Sixty percent of respondents felt that Vermont should increase funding for state colleges (#3). This is a worthy goal, which I share. However, increasing funding for college means cutting back somewhere else or raising taxes. If we were to follow Governor Scott’s recommendation, the increase would come from the Education Fund, which would raise property taxes. Transferring money from the General Fund would mean shortchanging other needed programs because the governor wants to hold the line on taxes.
There also seems to be overwhelming support for affordable housing (#5). This is an area where the state, municipalities and the business community can work and are working together to increase affordable housing. Legislation passed in previous years has made it easier to permit and build housing in designated downtowns and village centers. The business community in Chittenden County has joined with municipalities in housing planning as part of the Building Homes Together campaign.
Pretty much everyone, myself included, feels that we rely too heavily on property taxes to fund education. While there do not seem to be a lot of other alternatives to funding, controlling costs will be key to slowing the growth of property taxes. Consolidation under Act 46 has had an immediate positive effect on Charlotte’s education property tax rate this year, since our cost per pupil has gone down and the 10-cent property tax reduction incentive has kicked in.
Last year the Legislature took steps to give towns more say in renewable energy siting (#10). The Regional Planning Commissions are working hard to generate the guidelines that towns can comply with to get “substantial deference,” which means that the Public Service Board would have to comply with the town’s land use regulations if they meet the criteria in the guidelines.
Question 11 is closely related to question 5 discussed above. Vermont clearly needs to focus on improving its housing stock so that young people seeking to move to Vermont can afford to do so. Another key factor in this equation that was not addressed by the poll is the need for child care resources. Both of these critical needs are recognized by the Democratic majority in the Legislature, and we hope with our Republican colleagues to move legislation addressing them in this session.
Here are all the results of the poll in Charlotte.
Q# Question Yes No Not Sure
1. Do you think Vermont is having success with the opiate crisis? 5% 65% 30%
2. Are you satisfied with Vermont’s health care? 36% 46% 18%
3. Should Vermont increase funding for our state colleges? 60% 20% 20%
4. Does generating energy from renewable sources lead to economic development? 65% 17% 18%
5. Should we encourage affordable housing in Vermont? 81% 11% 8%
6. Should Vermont schools be applauded for advances in creative initiatives? 55% 17% 28%
7. Are you satisfied with the quality of education in your local school district? 61% 23% 16%
8. Does Vermont rely too heavily on property taxes to fund education? 77% 10% 13%
9. Are you optimistic about Vermont’s economy? 30% 38% 32%
10. Should Vermont’s communities have a voice in siting industrial energy projects? 86% 7% 7%
11. Should Vermont find ways to expand availability of homes for working families and young professionals? 82% 9% 9%
12. Do you think that Vermont values is a reason that many people live in Vermont? 69% 17% 14%
13. Should Vermont continue to address the issue of abuse and neglect of children? 93% 0% 7%
14. Do you support regulations that help to identify major sources of water pollution? 87% 4% 9%
15. Should Vermont create a lending program to provide capital for start-up businesses? 63% 17% 20%
As your representative in Montpelier, I appreciate your input on these and other issues. Your comments help me look at issues from several perspectives, and that is a valuable opportunity for me. You can always contact me by phone at (802) 425-3960 or email me. You can find this article and others at my website.