MINUTES OF THE VALA ANNUAL MEETING
SEPTEMBER 25, 2009
President Galen Mudgett called the meeting to order at 9:10 a.m. with 73 in attendance representing 37 towns, and all 14 counties. Galen introduced people from PV& R as well as former PVR attorney Charles Merriman and Harry Rousch, formerly in the mapping department and now of Information and Visualization Services.
Galen announced that the VALA Board of Directors had nominated John Fike of Reading for presidency of the organization. With no other nominations forthcoming, it was moved that the secretary cast one vote for John Fike. The motion was seconded and passed.
The Treasurer’s Report was read and accepted as follows:
|IAAO A/R Received||73.97|
|Rental Mtg Space||65.00|
|VTC-Ann’l Mtg|| 805.00
(205 less than prev yr)
|Balance 6/30/2009 in General Fund||4,341.09|
|Total Education Funds Bal||1,000.00|
|Balance in Checking 6/30/2009||$5,341.09|
CAMA—Chris Miele reported that there is now a back up option as well as a live update. There is also a “bug alert”.
There have been a number of changes/improvements made since the first of the year—the CAMA committee and NEMRC have been working through the list of issues including improvements to the CONDO database, cost reports and property record cards. NEMRC will be offering a commercial CAMA seminar in the future. Chris emphasized the importance of backing up data, keeping copies both on and off site.
There will be a Webinar on creating and using Foxpro expressions.
EDUCATION—John Vickery said he is looking for suggestions for workshops at the spring TOEC’s. A couple of possibilities would be the effective use of the condominium data base and sales comparison approach.
An event will be held at the Trapp Lodge hosted by the Society of Professional Assessors.
LEGISLATIVE—Current Use will be brought up again with a possibility of changing the 2 acre exclusion to 5 acres. In addition, there should be discussion regarding the cost of the program.
RFP COMMITTEE—Mark Paulsen said the RFP report was sent to Louise to be put on the VALA website.
POLICIES—The policies that were adopted at the 2008 VALA annual meeting and the board of directors were discussed. Randy Viens moved that the definition of a parcel should be
a. “Change 32 V.S.A. § 4152(a)(3) to redefine a parcel. A parcel is defined by its highest and best use.
(this change would require a Legislative decision)
A change to the policy regarding the valuation of non-rental housing is as follows:
d. Encourage the Legislature to reexamine how covenant non-rental housing is valued and taxed, with the result that the full value of such property (not the restricted resale price) is the basis for the municipal taxes, and the restricted resale price difference becomes a special exemption applied to the state education tax.
The policies as amended are accepted for the next year.
There followed a lively discussion on VALA’s involvement in politics. There are two main viewpoints—one that Listers need to focus on assessment only, the other that we need to weigh in on issues that affect our jobs as Listers. The following are some of the comments/questions discussed.
- Do we just administer or do we try to influence legislators? Involvement is necessary because Listers usually know the effects of legislation better than the ones who pass the legislation.
- We need to focus on listing and assessing…VALA has gained good rapport with legislative committees—if we broaden our scope, we could lose credibility—we should stay within our area of expertise.
- The Listers are defenders of the Grand List, therefore when tax policy and issues affect what we are sworn to do, then we need to speak up.
- The Legislature has violated the basis of ad valorem taxes through the passage of Acts 60 & 68
- When issues impact the Grand List, it is valid for VALA to become involved.
- We need to weigh in on issues that affect us such as tax policy
- There is a need to separate assessment and taxation—encourage taxpayers to contact their legislators about taxation issues.
- There is an intertwining of assessment and taxation
- When tax policy affects us, i.e. the equalization study, then to that extent VALA should weigh in on policy.
- VALA does go to hearings re: tax policy. There is a difference between understanding vs. influencing policy.
- Exemptions are a tax policy but VALA weighed in on that because it affected assessment.
- Some involvement is needed to represent those taxpayers who vote us into office.
- By our oath, we are a voice for equity.
- It is not possible to make a blanket policy on involvement, but issues should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- VLCT deals more with tax policy issues—that is one of their main jobs
- While assessment should be our focus, VALA could take a position on an issue if asked why we disagreed—it would open the door to express our concerns or opinions.
It was moved by Ed Clodfelter that VALA serves as the voice representing the concerns of Listers and Assessors in issues of property assessment as determined by VALA directors. Motion was seconded and passed.
LISTER OF THE YEAR AWARD
After a brief review of the background of the Michael P. Cyprian Award by Galen, the award was presented to Noel Walker of Fairlee. Noel has been a Lister for 21 years and has personally inspected and measured all of the 650 plus properties in the town. She is highly respected as a Lister by the residents and non-residents of Fairlee. Read more.
The speaker for the morning session was State Archivist, Katie Sherman. She spoke on the importance of having a good retention record of the documents that we use on a daily basis. All records are public and if not kept properly, anyone can challenge the veracity of our records.
All records are public but not all are open and record schedules need to be established as to what is or is not open with the statute for reference.
Setting up a retention schedule begins with reading the laws regarding the development of an inventory of records in each department starting with high-level laws, then going to the towns and see what the real practices are. Retention times should be set based on law and then determination would be made with each department to see how long documents need to be kept. Obsolete records need to be analyzed as well as active. Records policies need to be adopted for retention, storage, and who has access to them.
VALA had requested to start the process, but the request was not followed up. Katie will meet with John Fike to talk about it.
Further discussion included electronic documents, e-mails, imaging guidelines, government statutes affecting record retention, and the future protection of electronic records.
The time to set up a records retention program for a specific organization or department would probably take weeks. There are only three people in the office to take care of all state offices and Katie is the only one who will be working for local offices. Who makes the final determination of a retention schedule? It is based on law, the project team’s approval with the State Archivist as the final word.
The speaker for the afternoon session was George (Skip) Sansoucy of Lancaster, New Hampshire.
Skip owns and operates his own consulting engineering firm, actively involved in the design, planning, financing, construction, operation, and management of hydroelectric plants throughout New England and New York. He has also done the reappraisal of Vermont Yankee in 1999 and 2008.
Skip presented an overview of Net Book Value vs. Fair Market Value and covered topics of regulation, definitions of valuation, revenue streams for utility property, an example of authorized return on total assets, and sales of actual electric transmission and distribution property. He stated that utilities are allowed to build and deliver in a town—a monopoly—but in return are regulated by the state as to how much they can earn. Regarding the issue of valuation at net book, a utility would only sell their property at net book is there were a disaster or bankruptcy, etc. In a handout provided to the group, Skip showed numerous sales of utilities where the sale price exceeded the net book value. One prominent example was the sale of New England Electric Systems to the National Grid for two and a half times net book.
Other items addressed were allowed rates of return, percentages paid to investors, the amount allowed for reinvestment, the percentage of taxes paid by ratepayers. and methods of depreciation.
Skip also discussed the multimillion-dollar project –the southern loop—that VELCO is presently constructing.
PROPERTY VALUATION & REVIEW
Bill Johnson discussed the following;
- Current use will probably be a big topic in the Legislature this year, perhaps with suggestions for cutting the cost of the program;
- tax exempt properties such as churches, charitable organizations, covenant restricted housing, and how they affect the tax base; property tax adjustments—income sensitivity, prebates, rebates—things not dealt with last year; and increase of non residential tax rates.
- There could possibly be a decrease in education spending—instead of a 5-6% increase, it could be more like a 3-4% increase. There will have to be more done about the budget.
- There will be an aggressive education program, unfortunately only about half of the towns in Vermont are represented at the classes/workshops/TOECs. VALA meetings and TOECs are attended mostly by the same people. The other 50% are a major issue.
- Another question is that since Town Clerks have a certification program, should there be one for Listers? Demands on Listers are increasing—how do we reach out to the other 50% to get them to attend the workshops/classes and encourage them to get more involved. Would mandatory education requirements be a possible or partial solution?
Bill also said that he has permission to fill the two vacancies in Current Use.
With no other business to come before the group, the meeting was adjourned.
|Peter St Germain||Highgate||Franklin|
|Sue Lawrence||Grand Isle||Grand Isle|
|Janice Arnold||Grand Isle||Grand Isle|
|Harry Rousch||Info and Visualization Services|
|Mary Jane Potter||Vt. Municipal Assessors|
|Charles Merriman||Candidate for Secretary of State|
|Jim Boyle||S Londonderry||Windham|
|Todd LeBlanc||S Burlington||Chittenden|
|Bill Krajeski||New England Municipal Consultants|
|Richard Lewis||Lewis Appraisal Services–Barre|
|Katie Sherman||Vt Archives (A.M. speaker)|
|Ross Hazel||East Montpelier||Washington|
|Renee Carpenter||East Montpelier||Washington|
|George Sansoucy||George Sansoucy Engineering & Appraisal Services (Afternoon Speaker)|