Going Bust in Vermont

Gas for my car is, at the local station, $3.49 a gallon. Propane just went up another 50 cents so I am paying $3.60 a gallon and it is going higher. Some have paid $5.00 a gallon. My property taxes are increasing due to a new fire station. Even vegetables in the supermarket have escalated in price, and hamburger with 80% fat (could be more for all I know) is $4.00 a pound.

With such high expenses, Vermonters watch it very carefully. It is why they don’t dine out very often, do not buy clothes unless it is absolutely necessary, stay away from the dental technician, cancel vacations or trips to relatives.

And shun books and photographs. This last I know too well, for it is what I sell. Independent book stores are dwindling, and so are the chains—Borders is in bankruptcy. Vermonters rarely buy my photographs, and I am caught between two rocks. Galleries want 50% commission on sales. If I keep the price low at Vermont galleries, I can barely cover expenses. If I put it too high, no one buys. If I use a bookstore to sell my books, I lose up to 65% of the retail cost in commissions. Out of state galleries tell me to raise my prices and forget the local market.

So I decided to switch sales to the internet and I now have two websites. Www.petermillerphotography.com holds my portfolio; www.petermillerimages.com is home for my books and photo archives, which I am slowly putting online. Both sites have shopping carts.

The web is beginning to work, with sales coming in from Boston, New York, Maine, Arizona and the mid-west. To pay for this, to reinvent myself, I have to up my line of credit. My house secures this line of credit. Let’s not include my other assests, such as my photo archive and stock photography income.

So the bank, where I have not missed a mortgage payment in 30 years, turned down my LOC application. I have more than enough assets, I have cash flow to pay my bills, but I do not show enough income on my tax returns to satisfy the bank. Of course this has always been true; photographers can expense and depreciate most of their income.

I am applying to a credit union and I will let you know what happens. I hear from others who are self employed that their long-term banks are turning them down.

I’ll write more about this later.

What is happening, though, with the high cost of propane, fuel oil, property taxes, and general expense of living, is that many Vermonters are leaving the state—or planning to leave, if they could only sell their home at a decent price.

And it makes sense. One couple I know left Vermont for New Mexico and bought a house with a similar appraisal. They estimate they save $10,000 a year in expenses; their property tax is $4,000 lower.

Vermont was founded on entrepreneurs—the self-employed. Almost all of the people in my books, Vermont People and Vermont Farm Women, are self-employed. Now it pays to be employed by the state, town, or large corporation, the type of people the banks love because their income is assured (and these employees have pensions, vacations and other benefits).

Well, there are a lot of generalities peppered in here but you get the idea.

 

2 Comments

  1. Madeleine on March 8, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I live in London and work in Soho, and was browsing secondhand bookshop yesterday, your book, photographs in Paris The First time I Saw Paris was laid on the top. Last year I went to Paris for the first time and loved it, I have now been several times – on Eurostar.

    My partner bought this, he has loved Paris for many years, we have both enjoyed looking throught he book last night. and your text we enjoyed reading

  2. pmimages on April 18, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Madeleine:

    So nice to hear that you found the Paris book and enjoyed the city. I visit London every so often (my daughter and her boyfriend own Taqueria restaurant) and decided to walk the city and my aching feet, London is huge! Paris, on the other hand, is a walking city with not much distance between metro stops and now it has rentable bicycles!

    I didn’t know it until I wrote the Paris book but I learned so much in that city.

    Best to you, peter.

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