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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Thesis Topics: Ready-Made



AMONG the frequent questions at the reference and documents desks are those requesting statistics -- usually current and as up-to-date as possible -- for the Upper Valley area as well as for the states of New Hampshire and Vermont. The answers can frequently be found in a variety of sources, chief among them the publications of the United States census, which now come in several formats: in paper, in microfiche, as tapes, and as CD-ROM disks. Sometimes the information patrons want is such that a call to the responsible agency is the only way to get it. In addition to federal publications there are other documents that are issued by state agencies and by regional commissions.

This article does not concern federal sources. It concerns, for the most part, information available at the state level. Moreover, it does not cover all possibly relevant material. The connecting link among the documents mentioned is, as far as it is possible to do so, to identify the location of similar kinds of statistics. Some publications that qualify have been issued for many years (although the Library holdings might not be for the equivalent period); others are recent and some are likely to be of short duration. Also, the content -- what is covered in the documents -- is not necessarily consistent from year to year.

The Vermont Department of Taxes issues Vermont Tax Statistics. Holdings date from 1981; the most recent issue is in Baker's Reference Room ( HJ-11-.V557). The figures are grouped first of all as Personal Income Tax Returns. This category is divided into sets for State Totals, County Totals, and Town Totals. If you are resident in Norwich, Hartford, Hartland, or Windsor, for example, you can turn to the Town Totals and check some fifteen different statistical sortings running from number of returns to earned income credits. For towns like White River Junction, Quechee, Wilder, and the locality known as Hartford the presentation is all together under the parent town, the Town of Hartford. A second grouping is for Property Tax Relief Refunds: both state and county by income class. A third section is a state and county summary of Sales Tax Refunds. The final group covers School District Statistics by district. The tax report is entirely one of statistics with no text or interpretation.

The Annual Report of the Division of Property Valuation & Review of the Vermont Department of Taxes is available from 1986 onward, with the latest issue being in the Reference Room (HJ-4275-.A483). The first fourteen pages of the 1990 report are devoted to discussion and explanation; then the statistical tables begin. These are generally grouped by county and thereunder by town. Tables include Aggregrate Fair Market Values; Value and Property Taxes in Vermont by Category (such as residential, mobile homes, vacation, commercial, industrial); Effective Tax Rates (indicating town and school figures); Property Taxes Assessed (showing grand list, tax rate, total taxes assessed, school rate, and school tax assessed); and Ownership Ratios (indicated by corporations, by town residents, percentage by town residents, state residents, and non state residents). Various topics may be presented in different reports; for example, the 1986 report discussed briefly the property tax and the ability to pay. Statistical tables, by county and then by town, have five columns indicating RI (house and lot) Average Fair Market Value, Effective Tax Rate, Average R1 Tax, Median Adjusted Gross Income, and Tax Burden per $1000 Gross Income.

A third Vermont publication is cataloged as the Vermont County Series, the first number of which appeared in 1986. The issues themselves now bear the identification, Vermont: An Economic-Demographic Profile Series. To quote a prefatory comment in the Southern Vermont issue (1990), which includes the counties of Bennington, Rutland, Windham, and Windsor:

This series began in 1986 as a cooperative venture of the Department of Employment and Training and the Office of Policy, Research and Coordination. Initially one publication was planned for each county. By the middle of 1989, 11 of the 14 counties had been covered; however, it became apparent that shrinking resources would not allow the completion of I4 separate reports.

In order tO provide timely, as well as comprehensive economic-demographic information for Vermont's counties, a compromise approach has been developed. Four publications, representing four regions of the state, will be produced with the appropriate county information. Detailed town information is still included whenever possible. Grouping three or four counties will provide a convenient framework for comparing the conditions in neighboring locations as well as ease the logistical burden of covering 14 jurisdictions.

Each report combines text discussion and tables. Some tables in the combined issues continue to tabulate the same facts as the earlier single-county publications (for example, Demographic-Education Comparison of Windsor County Schools & Towns). On the other hand the earlier single-county Windsor County report has a table titled Demographic-Economic Comparison of County Towns, which identified both average income and average annual wage. The 1990 combined report for that table lists only average annual wage. The earlier separate report for Windsor included a table, Place of Work, tabulating six qualifications such as jobs within community, jobs held by non- residents and by residents, and a final community rating (bedroom town, job center, average); the current report does not include that table. The latest issues are located on the mezzanine above the Serials Room (Ref. Doc. HC_1O7-V5-.V49); earlier issues are in the stacks in the same call number.

New Hampshire, unlike Vermont, does not have a personal income tax and its financial reporting organization is different from Vermont's, so that drawing comparisons between the two states requires skill and understanding of the tax structures. Required also are runs of aufficient length for identical periods of time so that consistent judgments can be made. Other statistical reporting documents of the two states are not equivalent either, meriting a word of caution about conclusions that are drawn.

New Hampshire's Department of Revenue Administration issues an Equalization Survey (HJ-242I-.A62), which is now an annual and is available from I972 onward. After a brief introduction, the statistical tables for each county, and towns and cities within them, are presented. There are (in the I990 report, for example) thirteen columns. Explanations for the rubrics of each column are given on pages preceding the tables. The prelirminary text of the I990 report (page [2]) notes that:

All towns and cities do not conduct revaluations in the same year. Therefore some towns and cities may be assessing property close to market value (because they just conducted a revaluation) while other towns and cities are assessing property at less than market value (because their revaluation was conducted several years ago). This inconsistency makes it impossible to compare towns and cities to one another since the local assessed valuations are based upon different revaluation years.

The annual EQUALIZATION SURVEY . . . attempts to address this inconsistency by bringing all the local assessed property values up to current market values.

The sole purpose for equalizing local assessed property values is so that state revenues and public taxes shared by the towns and cities will be fairly divided between them. This includes state revenue sharing and school foundation districts.

The Department of Revenue Administration issues an Annual Report as well. It can be found for 1974/1975 onward in HJ-II-.N452. Previous to that time the report was issued by the State Tax Commission. For the period 1911 to 1962, when publication was suspended, copies are located in the call number 336.2973-N42ta. The tables in the report are entitled 'Tables by Counties. Valuations, Taxes and Tax Rates.' They are grouped by county and by locality within each, and follow a discussion of the work and organization of the department. Twenty-five columns, eleven of them grouped together under Land, Buildings, and Public Utilities and the remaining fourteen covering Gross Valuation, Gross Property Taxes, Blind and Elderly exemptions, and the like, present the statistics.

The pattern in which New Hampshire publishes these statistics is perhaps confusing, and certainly repetitive (although that is not always without its worth; if one source cannot be found on the shelf, the other is probably there). In addition to the 'Tables by Counties. Valuations, Taxes and Tax Rates,' the Annual Report also includes the Equalization Survey mentioned above and has done this for both since 1980. Since there seem to be some gaps in the separately published and cataloged Tables by Counties, their inclusion also as part of the Annual Report is welcome from the user's point of view.

Many of the documents issued by both states are distributed in mimeographed or less-than-printed form and are of such slight size (ten pages, for example) as to be almost ephemeral. They are sometimes difficult to identify and, once identified, to locate. The presence of an indexing service that has accompanying microfiche providing the text of the indexed documents offers a convenient approach to many state publications. The index is the Statistical Reference Index (Ref. Doc. HA-202-.A26), which is located on the shelves opposite the Government Documents Center at the entrance to the Serials Room. It is a register of statistical sources of information other than those of the United States government. Among the several sources from which the documents are drawn are associations, business organizations, commercial publishers, independent research organizations, universities, and states and territories. Microfiche copies of all the publications listed in this index are available as follows in the Jones Microtext Center (1443f): state publications from 1983 onward, university publications from 1984 onward, and all publications from 1985 onward. Among the categories that one can check in the index volume is state and territory name, subarranged by the issuing agency. Given the difficulty of locating and acquiring all state publications across the country, lacks in the fiche coverage will be noted by the user but the situation would be much worse without what is really an exemplary index and fiche collection.

For the Upper Valley area the Upper Valley-Lake Sunapee Council has issued the Regional Profile of the Upper Valley-Lake Sunapee Region. The 1990 issue is the current one; it is in the Reference Room in HT-393-N4-.U642. Eight sections compose the contents: Demographics, Housing, Employment/Labor, Income, Education, Taxes, Transportation, and Miscellaneous. Text, tables, and figures provide information ranging through all the standard kinds of figures as well as to such topics as the fastest growing communities, slowest growing communities, commuter travel time, and commuters by destination. The Miscellaneous section includes a summary of land use regulations, and listings of financial institutions and chambers of commerce.

The names of regional organizations similar to the Upper Valley-Lake Sunapee Council can be found in directories in the Reference Room; these organizations are good sources both for information and for suggestions as to where information can be located.

These state publications have a variety of uses for the student of state government as well as for the person with curiosity about such questions as 'How does my home town compare to our neighboring towns in regard to numbers of college graduates, or most expensive homes, or highest income?' Or even 'How do we rank in the state? A table that appears in the 1991 issue of the Vermont Almanac 1 carries an appeal to various readers not inherent in the purposes for which the figures were compiled. The table, which needs updating, is 'Income in Vermont.' It is in two sections: '25 Wealthiest Towns, 1985' and '25 Lowest Income Towns, 1985.'


I. (Burlington, Vt.: Regional Facts, Inc., 1990), 248-249.