ANNUAL MEETING MINUTES 2007

MINUTES OF THE
VALA ANNUAL MEETING

SEPTEMBER 14,
2007

The meeting was called to order
by President Mark Paulsen at 9:00 a.m. with 80 present. Mark announced
the recommendation of the nominating committee for President—Galen
Mudgett. With no nominations from the floor, it was moved and
seconded to elect Galen Mudgett as President. The motion passed.

The Treasurer’s report was
given by Louise Ferris-Burt and accepted as follows:

Previous
Balance Sept. 11, 2006 $5,357.01 Income $1,881.00

Expenses
3,006.89

Ending
balance Sept. 13, 2007 $4,231.12

COMMITTEE REPORTS:

Education—John Vickery
reported that there would be no fall Municipal Officers Meetings, but
there would be the Town Officers spring meetings. Suggestions
for these sessions would be welcomed. Mary Peabody of the UVM
Extension Service said that there would possibly be courses offered
over the internet, or presented by VALA at different sites. John
reminded people of the scholarships that VALA is making available—up
to $1050 per year with a $150 maximum per person.

There was also a reminder that
education provided by the State may only be used for PVR sponsored
classes.

Exemptions, Legislative—Caroline
Lockyer said there was not much to report for exemptions other than
PILOT is not fully funded which is a big issue in towns with a lot of
state properties. Legislative—the prebate/rebate is still a
big issue this year because of the privacy factor. The tax exempt
status of specific properties such as Civic Centers are requiring a
lot of attention by the Legislature.

Veterans’ Exemptions– The
Legislature okayed only $10,000 to be exempted, so that towns which
elect to exempt more than $10,000 have to institute a local options
tax to make up the difference. Therefore, everyone, including
veterans are paying another tax to compensate for the revenue not collected
because of towns granting a larger exemption to Veterans.

Mark reported that the Ways
and Means Committee had asked if VALA had a position on the privacy
issue of the rebate/prebate. Since this has nothing to do with
the Listers job of appraising property, Mark informed the committee
that VALA had no position and would yield its time to others who had
opinions on the matter.

It was interesting to note
that people on both sides of the issue could site the same chapter and
page of the law to prove their argument. It was felt that the
Ways and Means committee would have to take another look at the law.

Legislative policy for VALA:
The need to develop a Legislative Policy was discussed. There
is concern that when decisions need to be made quickly, they are often
made by a small group or sometimes only one or two people from VALA.
There needs to be something in place that will allow for flexibility
as well as being able to represent the views of the VALA membership.
Mark suggested that a Legislative Policy Committee could be formed to
develop a good working policy which will be brought as an amendment
to the bylaws at the next Annual Meeting.

Equalization:
Todd LeBlanc—no report

Bylaws:
Peter Rimsa summarized the recommended change to the bylaws. The changes
to the bylaws and constitution is as follows:

ARTICLE
5, SECTION 4— Current VALA members in good standing may apply for
assessment related course financial assistance through the “Scholarship
Eligibility Requirements and Application Form” to the Chair of the
Education Committee. The Committee may authorize up to $1,050.00
for Scholarships granted each fiscal year. The maximum individual
scholarship amount will be $150.00.

“Scholarships
shall be awarded by majority decision of at least 3 members of the Education
Committee.” The Directors may alter the “Scholarship Eligibility
Requirements and Application Form as the need requires.

A motion was made by Todd to
amend the bylaws as stated. The motion was seconded and passed.
It was also noted that the Education Committee should have at least
3 members.

CAMA/Microsolve:

Pauline Moore Ð A committee was formed by PVR of Listers, assessors,
IT people from the state and PVR to see what was needed from Microsolve.

The committee started working
on a document that said this is the kind of coverage we need to work
as Listers and Assessors and perhaps we should look around for other
vendors who could do a better job than Microsolve. The committee
will meet to see if they should continue to go forward or wait to see
what NEMRC can do for us now that Ernie Saunders has purchased Microsolve.

There was discussion about
the state equalization rate, the CLA and possible inequities which could
result from this method of equalization.

A question was asked as to
how many of the group present are supported by their towns in attending
this and other meetings. The majority of the group was supported
in some way by their towns.

Appreciation was expressed
to Chuck Burt for the work he does on keeping the VALA website up to
date. More enhancements will be made in the near future.

Michael P. Cyprian Lister
of the Year Award

This year’s award goes to
Terry Knight of Property Valuation and Review. Mark prefaced the
presentation with a brief overview of Terry’s position at PVR and
all the time and effort she has put forth in providing education for
Listers. (A copy of his remarks is included at the end of the minutes)

Congratulations, Terry.

Mark introduced Ernie Saunders
who gave a brief history of NEMRC from its inception to the present.
He talked about the advances in technology over the years and the many
modifications that NEMRC has made to make work easier for Clerks, Treasurers
and Listers. Some of the points that Ernie made are as follows:

At present, all but 2 towns
in the state are using NEMRC.

Towns would not be required
to subscribe to Microsolve even if they are using NEMRC,

they should be allowed to choose
what CAMA software they want to use.

It makes sense to use same
software across the state

There is still some work to
merge the two systems.

An advisory group will be established
to address concerns

NEMRC employs 14 people.
A programmer from Microsolve has been hired, and Jan Schreiber will
act in an advisory capacity.

A full time appraiser will
be hired.

Communication needs to be improved

Perhaps a new Listserve could
be created which would not be public, but would be for towns only

Disaster Recovery is on the
NEMRC side only, needs to be extended to Microsolve as well. After
2 years, NEMRC will burn grand list info onto CDs and give them to towns

The importance of backups
was stressed and keeping backups off site

NEMRC has a good working relationship
with the State

NEMRC will be able to bring
quicker support

Updates should be more frequent—need
a quick delivery system (remember when upgrades were sent through the
mail on a floppy?)

There needs to be an increase
in and better communication between the state and towns

A long term goal will be to
do county wide and state wide comparables.

The State should not be in
the software business but concentrate in policy areas.

Some questions and comments:

What if a town doesn’t use
Microsolve? That’s okay as long as it is compatible
with NEMRC.

A company named MUNIS was used
by Rutland—couldn’t keep up with changes in Vermont. NEMRC
had to fix problems encountered by Rutland –$60,000.

If a town uses another appraisal
software and has problems with it, they can always change to Microsolve.

Since Listers are at the will
of the voters, some are not in office very long and Microsolve is not
a user friendly program—hard to learn in a short time.

Documentation is lacking, a
training manual is needed.

Training—appraisal techniques—perhaps
over the internet or hiring people to train Listers throughout the state.
There is information that can be printed from the website.

Ernie asked to be given a chance
to prove that NEMRC can make this work

After Ernie’s presentation,
Chris Miele spoke briefly about his work with NEMRC since he came on
board in 1997. His primary goal was to work with Listers and the
Grand List.

Chris said that over the years
he has called on many Listers and Assessors for help who have had years
of experience. Even if he doesn’t have all the answers, he knows
where to go for information. It will be the same with Microsolve—he
knows where to go to ask for help…and will continue to do the best
he can to assist towns.

When asked if the State would
support changes to Microsolve, he said he did not think that the State
owned the software rights to Microsolve.

Chris was complimented for
the Current Use upgrade and he said he has had more feedback from towns
of things that should/could be changed. He also has a support
log from PVR’s IT department that he has started reviewing.
The best tool is the Listers and the input that they can give to NEMRC.

Mark commented on the new design
of the Lister of the Year Award. Since the VALA organization has
been growing and taking on its own identity, it was felt that it would
be good to have an award that bears its own logo. The membership was
encouraged to visit with Terry and look at the new design of the plaque.

Priscilla brought in some IAAO
brochures for anyone interested.

The afternoon session featured
a roundtable discussion of the Current Use program.

The people who were part of
that were introduced by Mark as follows:

Deb Brighton was the director
of the Current Use Program for its first 8 years. She has since
worked for the Joint Fiscal Office and the Administration on tax and
fiscal issues. She has drawn together a group to create a
“Review and Analysis of the Use Value Appraisal Program” and to
make a report to the Use Value Appraisal Task Force and the Ways and
Means Committee of the Vermont House of Representatives.

Alison Clarkson is the representative
to the Vermont Legislature serving Reading and Woodstock. She
has a background in theater and the arts and has been
active in the areas of education, environmental protection and civic
organizations. She addressed our annual meeting last year on the
topic if Current Use.

Martha Sullivan is a native
of Salisbury and has served as town lister off and on for over 15 years,
She has also served on the planning commission, historical society and
auditor for Salisbury as well as working as a tax preparer, census worker
and police dispatcher. She is part of the group preparing the
“Review and Analysis of the Use Value Appraisal Program”.

Alan Robertson is originally
from New York State educated at Clarkson and later at Boston University.
After a 30 year career in military and civil service, he retired in
2001 to work on his 65 acre tree farm in Sheffield where he is also
a Lister. He is the vice-chair of the Vermont Tree Farm Program
and has been involved in the National Tree Farm Program. Al is
the Lister representative on the Use Value Appraisal Task Force.

Rep. Clarkson said that she
took what was said at last year’s meeting along with input from foresters
and Listers from Reading and put together a comprehensive review of
current use as a bill which passed. That is why they are back
this year—it is time to stop tinkering with current use and make some
major changes. She got lots of feedback will all be channeled
into the analysis piece of the project.

The first challenge was to
get the bill through the legislature and funded. Deb’s group
will do an analysis based on this information; her analysis will come
back to the task force which is made up of 17 members consisting of
legislators, Bill Johnson, and some enrolled property owners.
The objective is to come up with specific recommendations for improvements
of the current use program to the Legislature. The funding will
cover 3 task force meetings and 3 public hearings. Public meetings
will be held in Montpelier, Bridgport and WRJ in October. It may
not be enough to resolve problems but it will be a start.

A 10 question survey was compiled
and mailed out to help the committee move forward. One of the
questions—what would Listers like to see changed? This is a good opportunity
to get those changes into the report that is submitted to the committee
and to participate in committee deliberations. Fifty towns responded
to the survey. Other surveys were sent out to forestry and agriculture
interests.

Of the responses received,
about 90% felt that penalties were not adequate—not stiff enough, but
no suggestions were offered for effective solutions which would discourage
people who are planning to develop their land. Also, it is necessary
that these suggestions can be possible/practical to administer.

Some of the questions and comments
from the floor:

Monitoring of forest land is
being done but monitoring of agricultural land needs improvement.

Too easy to get into the Current
Use Program

When land cannot legally be
sub-divided because of zoning or other restrictions, why should it be
allowed into the program.

Why should people who pay a
premium for land for protection purposes—and who would not develop
it for that reason—be allowed into the program

Could more value be assigned
to the homestead

Should people with land in
the program be allowed to post the land

Suggested penalty of 50% of
fair market value for land withdrawn

Where does funding for Current
Use come from?

Bill Johnson’s answer:
On the municipal side, the towns receive a check from the state which
comes from the general fund. On the school side, it is harder
to see- it is imbedded within the school finance system. There is no
free lunch—someone pays for it. Each year, the state sends the
towns the equalization study. Only use value is included after
it has been adjusted to 100%. Each individual town does not pay
for its own current use. Of the $36-40 million raised, 70%
is for education; the property tax rate on the school side has to be
higher to pay the bill for current use. So, everyone is paying
more tax to fund the current use program.

Back to comments:

Penalties, in whole or in part,
for withdrawal should go to the towns.

Conservation groups—sell
development rights, then put land into current use..double dipping?

Need more monitoring of agricultural
land—much land is just being let grow up—not kept open, not usable
for farming.

Need more up front costs and
criteria for entering the program

Needs to be a difference between
someone on a family farm who needs to sell a piece of land to preserve
the farm and someone who sells land to develop—shouldn’t get the
same penalty.

Land is not affordable to young
families.

Out of state owners shouldn’t
be in program

Huge tracts of land owned by
out of state people and enrolled into Current Use

Current Use program today is
exactly counter to its original purpose-keeping land in production.

Get the bureaucracy out of
the program and give incentive for good land management.

Perhaps a change in the minimum
acres in program

People buy huge tracts of land,
adding it to what they already own in current use, and end up
paying taxes on about 1% of the sale price. Because of how
the law is written, the taxes to pay for current use is borne mostly
by Vermonters—they pay a larger percentage of the current use program
than do the out of state landowners. .

Concern that while suggestions
can be made, it is never certain what will happen in the conference
committees of the Legislature

Problems with the contiguous
land—having mixed properties—administrative nightmare.

Subdivision can occur but it
doesn’t come out of program until the land is sold.

It was generally felt that
there is a disconnect between the intent of the law and what is actually
happening today.

Tom Vickery-major changes
need to be made to bring back the original goals of program. Need
a means test—people who have owned land for a long time and want to
keep it, but also people who are coming into program should be encouraged
to do good land management and it should be a step process in giving
them an exemption; should get away from use value and look at
the program as an exemption of values and put the administration of
it back to the Listers. There is too much government regulation.
Penalty—if land is withdrawn or if there are abuses of the program,
then the property owner is out of program for 5 years.
Tom passed out a handout that he has developed and would like comments
on it. He suggests completely canning the existing program
over a 2 yr period, then an easy transfer for people who want to stay
in the current use program. The purpose of current use is to create
good land management.

He suggests that non residents
receive a 20% exemption; residents a 40% exemption, and
generational owners a 40-80% exemption. This should be an
incentive, not use value. It should be a deduction in value on
assessment of land. This should be a one time deduction—not
changed every year, but only at reappraisal. If a property owner
don’t post the land, he would be eligible for an additional 10% deduction.
Getting the bureaucracy out of the program was stressed.
With the simplification of the program, the cost to administer would
be less. Some policing could be done if the land is subdivided.
Listers would have the right to remove land from the program.
The owner also has the right to appeal. The monitoring of the
system—the land management as well as removing abusers out of program—this
step process would be within our job duties. The simpler
the program, the better it will work. We don’t have control
of the land, but would gives incentive for good land management

Bruce Shields—change in economics
should be reflected in changes made in the current use program to make
it more effective

Too many restrictions.
Need to identify active farmer

When people retire and not
making 51% of income from farming, what happens to land?

Too much benefit for some-shouldn’t
be giving 99% reduction to people who don’t need it.

Non resident doesn’t pay
income tax, not as involved with sales tax—tax policy can’t tell
the difference between residents and nonresidents

30 years ago the intent of
the law was clearly stated; we need to get back to that intent and make
the necessary changes to achieve it.

The law with the goal or a
link to it will be posted on the VALA website.

PVR—Bill Johnson talked
about the four vacancies that still need to be filled in PVR.
Doug Lay has been appointed to temporarily fill the post of District
Advisor Supervisor. Terry Knight is retiring at the end of September;
Sandra Brodeur has come back to work on the equalization study; Charlene
will be teaching APEX courses.

The CAMA committee will be
submitting to NEMRC a list of changes/improvements that need to be done
in order to measure up. If they are not able to accomplish these
changes, then the move would be made to consider other vendors.

One of the biggest problems
in current use is that the administrative side needs to be simplified.

Priscilla Robinson—she is
available as the contact person for IAAO.

With no other business to conduct,
the meeting was adjourned at 3:10 p.m.

There were 80 in attendance
as follows:

Mark Paulsen Colchester Chittenden

Nancy Gaudreau Pittsford Rutland

Barbara Pierce Pittsford Rutland

Galen E Mudgett, Jr Sharon Windsor

John Fike Reading Windsor

Penny Allyn Reading Windsor

Ellen Holmes-Henry Fletcher Franklin

Carlton Ferguson Fletcher Franklin

Bob Kelley Newport City Orleans

Lois P Trenn Benson Rutland

Carlton Domey Cabot Washington

Doug Harvey Cabot Washington

Charles McArthur Morristown Lamoille

Donna Durkee Thetford Orange

Janet Stowell Thetford Orange

Alexis “Bill” Parent Richmond Chittenden

Bruce Shields Eden Lamoille

Robert Gibney Dorset Bennington

Lyle K Morrison Grafton Windham

Bruce McKay Troy Orleans

Ed Lipinski Troy Orleans

John Wetzel Fairlee Orange

Noel Walker Fairlee Orange

Pat French Randolph Orange

Camilla Roberts Rockingham Windham

Barry Keefe Rutland City Rutland

Betty Keefe Jericho Chittenden

Jean Essex Norwich Windsor

Jean Newell Dummerston Windham

Doug Hamilton Dummerston Windham

Bill Champine Proctor Rutland

Howard Burgess Rutland Rutland

Peter Rimsa Proctor Rutland

John Antogonioni Bennington Bennington

Ed Clodfelter Calais Washington

Chris Miele NEMRC

Todd LeBlanc So. Burlington Chittenden

Caroline Lockyer Montpelier

Peter Whitney St. Johnsbury Caledonia

Randy Viens Essex Chittenden

Pat McNall Fairfax Franklin

Regina Meigs Fairfax Franklin

Robin Chapman Fairfax Franklin

William Munoff Addison Addison

Richard Pratt Addison Addison

Al Jerard Brattleboro Windham

Russell Rice Brattleboro Windham

Sandi Capponcelli Athens Windham

Lois Sippel Athens Windham

Vicki Graves Burke Caledonia

Cheryl Noyes Burke Caledonia

Charles Mason Pawlet Rutland

Angie Abbatello Shaftsbury Bennington

Elaine Coonradt Shaftsbury Bennington

Paul Wildasin Woodstock Windsor

Carol Wood Woodstock Windsor

Pauline Moore Manchester Bennington

Joyce Scribner Manchester Bennington

Phyllis Newton Vernon Windham

Richard Unger Weybridge Addison

Arthur Bradley, Jr. Weybridge Addison

Carolyn Kinney Poultney Rutland

Joseph Williams Poultney Rutland

Babetta Lynde Westminster Windham

Ruth S. Grandy Westminster Windham

Louise Ferris-Burt Bethel Windsor

John Vickery Burlington Chittenden

Tom Vickery Stowe Lamoille

Bill Johnson PVR

Terry Knight PVR

Carol Hammond Vernon Windham

Priscilla Robinson Warren Washington

Gail Fallar Tinmouth Rutland

Ernie Saunders NEMRC

Perry Green Manchester Bennington

Lisa Truchon Lincoln Addison

Alan Robertson Sheffield

Deb Brighton

Martha Sullivan

Alison Clarkson

 

 


Michael
P. Cyprian Award

2007

Each year the
Vermont Assessors and Listers Association honors an individual who has
provided exemplary service to his or her community. The Michael
P. Cyprian Award recognizes competence, honesty and fairness in the
assessment profession. The recipient should promote good public
relations, be involved with education and training, enhance the profession
and cooperate with colleagues in State and local government.

This year’s
recipient began her service as a lister, and her involvement with VALA
in 1985 serving in her town for 12 years. She has worked as a
reappraisal contractor with Frank Bredice and with her husband.
She also served as an appraisal consultant to the City of Barre where
her husband was the Assessor. Most recently, this person has served
the Lister community and taxpayers throughout Vermont as an employee
at the Vermont Tax Department, Division of Property Valuation and Review
where she has been a champion of education and training and has helped
countless Listers and Assessors try to understand and comply with increasingly
complex State regulations.

This year she
will celebrate her fiftieth wedding anniversary with her husband, their
four children, two grandchildren that have already graduated from college
and two new, 14 month old twin grandchildren whom she baby-sits every
Tuesday. This individual plans to retire from full time employment
at the end of this month although I hope that she will come visit us
from time to time since I believe everyone here has met her, learned
from her, and called her up for advice.

I am pleased
that one of my final acts as the President of this organization can
be to honor Terry Knight as our Lister of the Year.

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