MINUTES OF VALA DIRECTORS’ MEETING
MAY 12, 2009
The meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m. by Vice-President Pat French with 28 in attendance as follows:
|Frank Partsch||State of Vt|
|Dave Tanner||State of Vt|
|Todd LeBlanc||S Burlington||Chittenden|
|Babetta (Babs) Lynde||Westminster||Windham|
A motion was made by John Fike to accept the minutes with amendments of the April 1, 2009 meeting.
The motion was seconded and passed.
The Treasurers report was read by Louise as follows, and accepted as read on a motion by Todd LeBlanc.
Balance 3/4/09 $5,367.74
Dues received $75.00
Ending Balance 4/30/09 5,442.74
Education Fund $1,000.00
General Fund 4,442.74
Memberships paid to date 97 Representing 54 towns, 5 business/Org., 1 Vt Gov Dept.
The Miscellaneous Tax Bill totaled $26,000,000.
Adjustments to property tax bills—last adjustment the towns have to make is on Sept. 15th; all other adjustments by the Tax Dept. The bill also addresses the issue that when tax payers filed their homestead but not the declaration page and were considered late filers—now under H.442 the Tax Commissioner can assume that if the homestead was filed, then the intent of the taxpayer was to sign the declaration as well. This would eliminate changing someone from resident to nonresident, sending out new tax bills, etc.etc.
Bill H.12 repeals the $5,000/acre cap on Current Use
Education tax rates–$0.86 for homestead and $1.35 for non-residents. However, the way the law is written, unless the legislature sets a rate every year (by July 1), the rates revert to $1.10 for homestead and $1.59 for non residents which would be a big shock to tax payers. It really shows how much a state tax this has become.
Steve passed out copies of the Education Fund Outlook as of May 9, 2009. Tax rates are down one penny from last year.
There should be $297 million transferred from the General Fund to Education Fund, but that amount will actually be $240 million from the General Fund and $38 million from the stimulus package — $18.4 million less than what is required. However, when the stimulus money is gone, the General Fund will again have to pick up the full amount, or property taxes will have to make it up or there will have to be a decrease in school spending.
Line 10 of the Outlook is labeled Education Payment and transfers funding of the State Corrections Dept education program (Community High School of Vt) from the Education Fund. Also to come out of the Education Fund (Line 17) is the cost of early education services.
Another draw from the Fund will be a one time $200 thousand payment in 2010 which will be available for the reappraisal of hydro dams on the Connecticut & Deerfield Rivers since 80% of revenue from these properties goes into the Education Fund.
Teachers Retirement Fund—The Governor has proposed a $63 million transfer to the Ed Fund — $23 million less in General Fund aid and shifting $40 million of retirement costs to the Education Fund. As of Dec 31, because of the stock market losses the retirement fund realized in the previous 6 months should make that $40 million contribution rise to $60, but that will take place next year . Each year about 15-20 million comes out for retired teachers health insurance, which no one is taking responsibility for paying. In the 1990s, the Legislature gave approval for a health insurance plan, however, no funding was established. Therefore, this amounts to an automatic underfunding every year. At present the Teachers Retirement Fund is at about 58% funding. The total aggregate underfunding is about $370 million. There is an allowance in the budget for a committee that is supposed to look at the teachers’ retirement fund to see what should be done to meet the obligation that they have set for themselves. The Governor’s proposal to fund the teachers retirement out of the education fund was defeated.
There is a backlog of requests for school construction money. Towns could go ahead with construction projects and hope for reimbursement retroactively.
The Governor’s task force on education for this summer has been replaced by a committee comprised of 15 members representing many different factions.to study how education is delivered and funded.
Transportation: $5 million was allotted for paving projects for towns and 5 million for short bridges under AARA (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.) However, the applications are due by May 15th but since projects don’t have to go to bid until December, there is an effort to get a delay on the May 15th deadline.
At the July meeting, we will know what really happened at the end of the legislative session.
PV & R—Bill Johnson
ANR Pilot program—the proposed amount to reimburse towns was $2.13 million. The amount was to be cut by a million dollars and funded at the municipal tax rate. This amount was changed to $1.782 million rather than the original $2.13 million. But the $1.782 million was a typo and the $2.13 million is the right figure.
$200,000 has been earmarked for reappraisal of the TransCanada dams on the Connecticut & Deerfield Rivers.
An exemption for fall out shelters will probably go away.
The implementation of ‘on-line’ PTTR’s will not happen this year. Tax Department will make a presentation to the Legislature.
Current Use—Joint Fiscal is looking at a possible $1.6 million reduction by 2011. At present there are 13,000 owners of 15,000 properties in the Current Use program. There was a suggestion of capping current use at either 4 or 5 thousand dollars but that won’t happen this year.
There is a 10% per year increase for reimbursement of Current Use land. At reappraisal, land values increase, therefore reimbursement increases. There is great resistance to changes to the program. When suggestions were made to make even marginal cuts to the programs, the activists launched calling campaigns to protest any changes—they have a strong influential lobby coming from many different places. And as more people buy land and enroll in the program, their voice in Montpelier is even louder and stronger. Representatives from VALA have spoken before three committees to recommend capping in order to put a price tag on the Current Use program—to no avail. Tax policy is driving values up — people who enroll in the program for the purpose of tax avoidance, are causing the increasing cost of Current Use to the rest of the taxpayers. The Legislature needs to see price tag that is attached to this program.
Priscilla asked whether the Legislature has considered raising the penalties for leaving the program. For example: developers who buy land, put it in Current Use, and then get development approval—why aren’t they automatically removed from Current Use? They are clearly in violation of the intent of the program.
Staff reduction of state employees: There will be a 320 employee reduction state wide, with 2 jobs affected in PV&R—Felicia and Doreen. The two people in the mapping department have been transferred to Vt. Center for Geographic Information.
Dealing with a declining market: Remarks were made about the decline in the market regarding property sales. Pauline commented that there is a need to talk about and develop a plan to deal with lower prices on real estate.
There is also a need for better support and communication from NEMRC.
David Tanner will be replacing Frank Partsch whose new title will be Assistant Director of Compliance. Dave has been training (with Frank) for the last several weeks. Dave will be the contact person for CAMA/NEMRC questions.
Chris Miele: Reminded people to check for live updates on both CAMA and NEMRC.
John Vickery: The Records Retention workshop with Katie Sherman was well received. Better guidelines are needed for record retention. Does VALA want to put out a request to VSARA to set up guidelines? Would it be good to do it as a group, rather than town by town?
A motion was made and seconded for John Vickery to start the application process to VSARA. Motion passed.
Chris suggested record retention would be a good Annual Meeting topic. Discussion followed on good records management—we need to know what to keep and what to toss.
It was noted that attendance was down at the TOECs, perhaps because of the lack of workshops for Listers.
Annual Meeting: Lisa Truchon volunteered to help Louise with preparations for the Annual Meeting. Louise will oversee the catering for the meeting. Several people/topics were suggested –Tom Pelham from the Tax Department, Charlie Merriman; legal responsibilities of Listers, records retention. The Annual Meeting details will be finalized at the July 1st meeting.
Lister of the Year: Galen Mudgett, Ruth Grandy—it was suggested that input be sought from District Advisors, Town Clerks, and perhaps a request on the List Serve for suggestions.
Looking ahead to the sales study next year—adding 2008 sales to 2006 & 2007—values will be coming in under equalized fair market value—will they be dropped? Probably not. Rather than indexing or reappraisal, a statistical analysis would likely be recommended.
Buildings Pilot: $4.9 million appropriated from the local option tax revenue.
The July 1st meeting will be held again at the White Church in Bethel. Louise reminded folks to remember food shelf donations.
A meeting of the CAMA committee will follow.
The meeting was adjourned on a motion by John Fike. The motion was seconded and passed.
Carol Hammond, Secretary