MINUTES OF THE VALA DIRECTORS’ MEETING
SEPTEMBER 2, 2009
President Galen Mudgett called the meeting to order at approximately 9:00 a.m. with 25 in attendance.
It was moved by Louise Ferris-Burt to accept the minutes of the July 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 John Fike.
VLCT—Steve Jeffrey: Steve reminded those gathered of the Town Fair which will be held October 1st in Barre. VLCT will be adopting a legislative policy at their annual meeting where education funding is again a prominent concern. This year’s raid on the Education Fund is the biggest yet with even a larger raid next year. Of particular concern is the Adult Literacy Program, which carries a $3.2 million price tag.
There was an education reform summer study, which covered a multitude of topics but lacked direction or focus. There was also a blue ribbon task force, which looked at Vermont’s tax structure. And there is still a desire on the part of some to fund the teachers’ retirement out of the Education Fund. Currently the retirement fund is approximately $60 million underfunded
An appropriation bill last year, which proposed cuts to or perhaps caps on Current Use failed. There is talk of shifting the cost of current use to the towns. It is also believed that towns have an artificially high price on land. Presently there are 16,000 parcels, or 40% of all land parcels in the state are enrolled in Current Use. This year, agricultural land is valued at $199/acre and forestland is valued at $129/acre.
Views were expressed that caps need to be placed on Current Use.
PVR—Mark Paulsen: Mark discussed some of the cuts that have been made—in the Current Use Program, there was one administrative cut and 2 people, Bill Snow and Pat Rea, chose to take part in the retirement incentive program. Since Kate Curley is the only one left in that department, the District Advisors have been helping out with phone calls, etc.
Richard Westman has been appointed as the new Tax Commissioner.
There was discussion about the decrease in the values of second homes in some areas of Vermont and Mark was asked if PVR was seeing increase in tax rates. Mark said there were very small increases overall in the state—no dramatic change.
There was a discussion on the merits of using level of appraisal (LOL) vs. common level of appraisal (CLA) and opinions were expressed that while the LOL is better and more accurate than the CLA, since many towns have few sales, the CLA is the way it has to be done.
Other questions/concerns that were raised:
Because of court decisions, the property owner can sales chase down but Listers can’t sales chase up;
It is important to pay attention to “short sales” and their effect on the COD.
When do short sales and foreclosures define your market?
Fee appraisers use short sales for comparables
Condominiums should be a separate category
Mobile Homes Landed could be part of the residential categories.
Microsoft/CAMA—Pauline Moore–the committee has met with Bill Johnson & Ernie Saunders of NEMRC. There is a list of enhancements that need to be prioritized and will be brought to the next meeting.
Education—John Vickery—topics for workshops at the April TOECs
- Validation techniques—need for education in condo & commercial parts of CAMA
- Market analysis—being able to use this feature in CAMA
- Sales analysis for use in hearings with the BCA and State Appraisers.
John also mentioned an upcoming two-day conference at the Trapp Family Lodge on how Listers are dealing with the current market. This will be led by the CEO of the Society of Professional Assessors of Connecticut. After several comments/concerns were expressed, John will get more background information on the person and the organization.
There was a lively discussion as to whether VALA should become more politically involved—over and above assessment purposes. Should VALA stay with assessment issues only?
Where should the line be drawn between assessment and tax rate—can they be separated?
Where is the line drawn when VALA is asked to testify—should it be limited to assessment issues only? Just what is our area of expertise?
John Wetzel moved that we bring up at the annual meeting whether or not VALA should adopt a position on tax policy. The motion was seconded and passed.
There were 8 specific areas of concern that were discussed at the 2008 annual meeting. Of these 8, the following 4 policies were adopted.
- Change 32 VSA §4152(a)(3) to redefine a parcel. A parcel is defined by its highest and best use and what is legally permissible.
- VALA encourages the Legislature to reexamine the Current Use Program to address the escalating current use cost burden to the Vermont taxpayers. The research should include by not be limited to assessment value caps.
- Have the Legislature revamp the PILOT program so that State owned properties are valued uniformly to properties in the private sector and have the University of Vermont properties valued uniformly with State College properties.
- 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 in the way that the subsidized rental housing is taxed.
RFP committee-=Mark provided a handout for a reappraisal contract guidelines. This is not all-inclusive; it can be a progressive document, with additions or revisions as needed.
Pat French reported that John Fike is willing to serve as president of VALA for the next year. John was therefore nominated for president and this recommendation will be made for vote at the Annual Meeting.
The next regular VALA meeting will be held at the White Church in Bethel on November 4th.
John Fike made a motion to adjourn. The motion was seconded and passed.
Carol Hammond, Secretary