The Charter vote for the City of Essex Junction passed overwhelmingly (88%) in November with 3,070 yes votes to 411 no votes. While there have not been any more work sessions on independence, there has been a lot of work done by the Trustees to prepare for the legislature to consider the Charter and to form the City government. We will continue to provide routine updates on the status of independence moving forward and apologize for the long gap since the vote.
Representatives Houghton and Dolan have been working on a bill to be introduced in the Vermont House as soon as the legislative session begins. The House Committee on Government Operations will be the first to consider the bill. It will be up to them as to if and when they take consideration of the Charter. The hope is that they will take it up and take it on early in the session so that it can begin traveling through the House and Senate committees before a vote by both chambers and then pending the signature of the Governor. Ideally, this will all take place starting in January and be signed by May, and the Village will formally become the City of Essex Junction effective July 1, 2022.
The Trustees have continued to work with the Selectboard on agreements of how the two municipalities will work together and separately, should the legislature approve the City Charter. The boards have now voted to support tentative agreements related to six departments/items:
Police – Essex Police will continue in the exact same manner as it does today. The City will contract police services from the Town and pay on a per capita basis.
Reappraisal & Assessor – the City will contract to continue with the Town Assessing Department until the reappraisal process is complete. The process of reappraisal has not started yet, but is anticipated to within the next year or two.
IT – the City will contract its own IT services one year after the Charter takes effect.
Delinquent taxes – prior to the City being established, all delinquencies for Village/Town property taxes from Village homes will be payable to the Town.
Stormwater – the joint funding and planning of stormwater projects will end one year after the Charter takes effect.
Right of First Refusal – if the Town decides to sell 81 Main in the future (there are no plans to do so now), the City will have the right of first refusal to purchase the property.
There are a few other agreements that the boards have agreed to general tenets but have not yet been drafted into formal contracts, and thus are still in deliberations. Here is the current framework:
Finance – each municipality will employ and fund their own finance department. The departments will work together at 81 Main Street until they can separate everything that is currently intertwined, with a goal of being separated no later than June 30, 2025.
Clerk/Treasurer - the municipalities will continue to share a clerk/treasurer’s office at 81 Main Street until one year after the Charter takes effect.
Recreation/Indian Brook/Senior Center & Bus – all Town and City citizens will be treated as residents for recreation programming, Indian Brook access, Senior Center access, and Senior bus services through June 30, 2025. Only exceptions: EJRP Preschool and Maple Street/Sandhill pools may have benefits for residents of their respective community. The Town and City will share Senior Center/bus expenses on a per capita basis.
There have been a lot of moving parts as it relates to the staffing of the current Village and future City. The consolidated management agreement between the Town and Village is expiring on February 25, 2022, and is not being renewed. This means that the sharing of management and HR services between the municipalities will no longer be. The Trustees anticipate that the City Charter will pass this May, at which time they will begin advertising for a permanent City Manager. Until that person is hired, the Trustees have appointed interim co-managers – Wendy Hysko, Director at the Brownell Library and Brad Luck, Director at Essex Junction Recreation & Parks. The Village is currently advertising for an HR Director. The consolidated finance director resigned and accepted a new position. The finance departments are now separate for the Village and Town, but working together at 81 Main for the next several years to provide financial services to both municipalities while disentangling things. The Village is currently in the process of hiring a finance director.