They’ll Take N.H.

The Washington Post Sunday - - Outlook -

Ver­mon­ters (or a small seg­ment of them, any­way) may be ag­i­tat­ing to se­cede from the union. But even if they got their way, not ev­ery­one would want to go with them. In fact, the good peo­ple of Killing­ton, a town of about 1,000 near the moun­tain of the same name, want out of Ver­mont, not out of the United States. They’d like to live free or die, per the motto of neigh­bor­ing state New Hamp­shire. Specif­i­cally, they’d like to live free of Ver­mont’s ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing laws that, town of­fi­cials say, un­fairly re­dis­tribute lo­cal prop­erty taxes through­out the state.

When lob­by­ing for re­form of the law failed re­peat­edly, “the only thing left for us was to try some­thing that would per­haps get [leg­is­la­tors’] at­ten­tion,” said Board of Select­men mem­ber Norm Hol­comb. So the select­men de­cided to se­cede and be­gan draft­ing “ar­ti­cles of se­ces­sion” to present at the an­nual town meet­ing in 2004. But where would Killing­ton go? “We didn’t feel New York state was ap­pro­pri­ate,” Hol­comb said. “We felt that would be go­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.” They picked New Hamp­shire in­stead. The town com­mis­sioned an eco­nomic study that con­cluded its tax­pay­ers would save an es­ti­mated $7.7 mil­lion a year by high­tail­ing it out of the Green Moun­tain State.

The se­ces­sion mea­sure passed with more than 60 per­cent of the vote at the town meet­ing. Af­ter a sec­ond vote at the 2005 meet­ing, a se­ces­sion del­e­ga­tion met with Ver­mont leg­is­la­tors and the gov­er­nor’s staff in Mont­pe­lier, a lit­tle less than 90 min­utes by car from Killing­ton, but made lit­tle head­way. In the New Hamp­shire cap­i­tal, Con­cord, just 30 min­utes farther than Ver­mont’s cap­i­tal, law­mak­ers were more re­cep­tive. The New Hamp­shire leg­is­la­ture formed an of­fi­cial Killing­ton In­cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion, amove that the Ver­mont leg­is­la­ture had al­lowed to die in com­mit­tee.

With no sup­port in the Ver­mont leg­is­la­ture, ev­ery­thing stalled when the 2005-06 ses­sion ended. Hol­comb, who is a cer­ti­fied pub­lic ac­coun­tant, says Killing­ton res­i­dents still com­plain about taxes and the schools. But now they’re more in­ter­ested in chang­ing the prop­erty tax law than se­ced­ing from the state.

At the town meet­ing this year, one big ini­tia­tive had to do with in­creas­ing tourism. It pro­posed $225,000 to mar­ket Killing­ton — which Hol­comb calls the No. 1 ski­ing des­ti­na­tion in Ver­mont.

— Rachel Dry

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