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To The Editor:
In The Valley Reporter issue of July 19, Lisa Loomis wrote a cover story about the declining number of restaurants here in The Valley, but she failed to opine as to why that is so. Here's my take.
Vermont and the Mad River Valley are pricing themselves out of the market. I'm a part timer here -- summer and winter. I am retired and essentially on a fixed income. This year it will cost me over $4,500 more to do the same things I did here last year. How can that be? Simple. My property taxes are up almost $800. And instead of addressing issues of real importance to us (decreasing taxes, closing school districts and schools, improving our infrastructure, luring businesses to Vermont, etc.), our state legislators waste time and effort discussing things like the impeachment of President Bush.
But back to the issue at hand. Sugarbush golf charges up about $3,000. Sugarbush road, water and wastewater charges up about $450 (yes, we pay that in addition to our property taxes). Increased ski pass costs as well as the raising of the senior and super senior ages cost, perhaps another $200. Add increased gasoline and heating oil prices and, voila, the $4,500 increase. Maybe more.
So how do most of us fixed income big spenders get $4,500? We're here for about 26 weeks during the year. We eat out a lot -- or at least used to. Cutting out 35 dinners for two over the 26 weeks will save us about $3,500. And our dinners out are usually with house guests and average over $200 or a decline of $7,000 in Valley restaurant business. Multiply that by 30 or 50 of us and the picture gets pretty ugly. And as the restaurants feel the pinch, they are raising their prices as well, driving additional business away. Oops! Country Flair just closed its doors.
Chefs, cooks and waitstaff are earning less and are harder to find. And it also upsets many of us to hand the state a 10 dollar bill every time we have a meal with a glass of wine. No wonder our restaurants are having a rough go of it. And, as an aside, no wonder real estate sales are slow and prices are declining.
But wait, there's more. We need to come up with another $1,000 in savings. So we'll give a bit less to charity. No wonder some churches are having a rough go of it. We'll buy our alcoholic beverages and big ticket items where sales taxes are lower. Vermont's answer to that is to raise my taxes, then spend my money back in advertising to tell me to "Buy Vermont." Huh? We will not join the health club. We will do more homeowner "fix-up" things ourselves rather than hiring local folk. No wonder our young people are opting to leave for other areas. Another year or two of increases like this one and, like our young people, we're outta here too.