Municipal Odds & Ends
Eighteen states have incorporated villages, ranging from Texas’s 1,194 to New Jersey’s one (figures as of 1994).
The first special act allowing for the creation of a village, Middlebury Borough, is in the session laws of 1816.
The first general act allowing for the creation of villages is in the 1819 session laws.
Villages were given taxing authority by Act 37 of 1857.
The ability to bond for municipal improvements may have been a key factor in the creation of municipalities with special charters. In 1917 (Act 105) all municipalities were granted a general bonding authority to fund public improvements, provided two-thirds of the voters at a duly called meeting approved.
Passage of Act 105 significantly slowed the movement for special municipal charters. Of the fifty incorporated villages still in existence in 1986, only three were created after 1917 (Jericho, North Westminster, and Perkinsville; eight of the villages in existence in 1986 have subsequently merged back into their parent town). Three of Vermont’s current nine cities were formed after 1917 (Newport, Winooski and South Burlington). In contrast, twenty incorporated villages were created between 1901 and 1910 and four cities were created between 1893 and 1897.
The last incorporated village created by special act was Essex Center within the Town of Essex (Act 302, 1949). The village merged back into the town of Essex in 1977 (Municipal Act #2, 1977).
Of Vermont’s current nine cities, three are in a contiguous line within Chittenden County (South Burlington, Burlington, and Winooski). These are the only contiguous cities in Vermont.
Though social, political and economic factors influence the creation of villages and cities, economic factors may be key. Barry Salussolia in “The City of Burlington and Municipal Incorporation in Vermont,” Vermont History, Vol. 54, pp. 5-19, speculates that Vermont’s cities have been “plagued” by “duplication of governments, services, and schools, and inadequate tax structures, mandating ever higher tax rates.” He contrasted Burlington, which encompassed 8.5 square miles and thus room for growth, with Winooski, which encompasses 1.2 square miles. Once industry, notably the woolen mills, located elsewhere, Winooski’s tax base suffered, while room for growth was limited.