MINUTES OF THE VALA DIRECTORS MEETING
NOVEMBER 4, 2009
The meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m. by President John Fike.
A listing of attendees follow the minutes.
A motion was made and seconded to approve the Secretary’s report. The motion passed.
The Treasurer’s report was read and a motion was made to accept the report. The motion was seconded and passed. Louise asked that $150 be transferred from the General Fund to the Scholarship Fund since there had been one request for a scholarship. A motion was made to transfer $150 from the General Fund to the Scholarship Fund. The motion was seconded and passed.
Louise gave an overview of the VALA Website that was set up by her son in 2003 with an initial set up cost of $300. Since then there has been no cost to the organization. Chuck continues to update the site as information is sent to him. There continues to be a steady amount of visits to the website—42 this last week, mostly from New England.
John Fike commented that at present VALA has 90 members. He stressed the importance of marketing the organization, raising its visibility in the Legislature, and strengthening its partnership with PV&R and NEMRC.
PV&R—Bill Johnson-—there is a need by the Legislature to look at how the CLA is calculated. There will be no changes by PV&R this year as it is being applied uniformly throughout the state.
Bids are due by December 1, 2009 for reappraisal of the TransCanada dams.
Stratton—the tax rate has been set, the town has accepted the tax rate and has sent out the tax bills. The attorney who aided property owners in bringing 300 appeals against the town is considering suing the State.
Electronic PTTR’s—the process is going well. PV&R has met with various town clerks and attorneys to address their concerns. Town Clerks did not feel towns were ready for the electronic format and want to continue with hard copy. Bill admitted that the new PTTR forms are confusing and no one really likes them-but they are only temporary and the final revision will probably more closely resemble the old forms. The new forms will have mandatory fields that must be filled in before the form can be completed. The attorneys do not like the idea but agree that some changes need to be made. PV&R want the forms to be as user friendly as possible while still getting all of the necessary information.
NEMRC–Chris Miele —Changes have been started on the condominium portion of CAMA. Hopefully the Beta version will be available in 2-3 weeks. Need to set up a meeting with PV&R regarding the changes for their approval.
NEMRC has gone through the ‘punch list’ and prioritized it. Some things have been fixed and priorities have been set for the short and long term. Chris said that 39 have signed up for the Condo class on Nov. 6.
Tom Vickery introduced the new Tax Commissioner, Richard Westman who spoke on the problems facing the Education Fund. Some of these problems are ‘just around the corner’. Mr. Westman said that he is the first tax commissioner since the advent of Act 60 to ask for an increase in the State Property Tax. Finding education funding is getting more and more of a challenge as more demands are made on the fund itself as well as on the General Fund from which a large share is transferred to the Education Fund. A combination of tons of band aids, spending growth, and property tax imbalances have all contributed to the present situation. There is also the desire of many to transfer funding of Teachers Retirement from the General Fund to the Education Fund which will also include making up the difference in the underfunding of the Teachers Retirement fund that has occurred for a number of years.
Mr. Westman also expressed his concern about towns not reporting exempt properties. When one group is exempted, another group has to make up the difference. TIF districts which are exempted from the state property tax for 20-25 years are created in downtown areas to encourage business. However, someone else must make up the difference in lost tax revenue. Local option taxes have been instituted in some cities/towns to help keep the municipal tax down. Most towns that have a ‘downtown’ have both TIFs and a local option tax.
Mr. Westman presented many more facts and statistics regarding Act 60 and the problems facing this piece of legislation not the least of which is the 2.6% increase in the Education Fund and a negative growth in the State Grand List.
Election of Officers:
The present slate officers have agreed to continue in their respective positions for another year. It was moved and seconded that the secretary cast one ballot for the slate of officers as follows:
Vice President—Pat French
VLCT–Steve Jeffrey gave a review of the problems facing the teachers retirement fund and the possibility of its funding being transferred from the General Fund to the Education Fund; how that years ago the Legislature had okayed a health benefits package for retirees but no funding was ever put in place for it, hence the huge underfunding dilemma.
There is a Blue Ribbon Task Force looking at an income tax to fund (or help fund) education.
A task force (I’m not sure if it is the Blue Ribbon one) looking at restructuring education is probably not going anywhere.
Education Committee—Todd LeBlanc listed possible topics for upcoming TOEC’s –demonstration of the State CAMA system, preparing appeals for BCA, teaching sales comparison report. Other suggestions made were
on septic design and guidelines, hand held computers, and not to schedule the Lister Forum at the end of the day.
Todd asked that all suggestions for classes or workshops be funneled through him or John Vickery.
Todd and John are also looking for people who are willing to help teach a class or workshop. Because there will be five locations for the TOEC’s, it would be great if someone was willing to teach at even one location.
Equalization Committee will meet with Bill Smith, Bill Johnson and Mark Paulsen about using distress sales in equalization study. Although there are flaws in the existing system that is currently in place and as long as it is administered consistently, the state will probably not change it. It was acknowledged that the current system does not allow for a down turn in the market.
Legislative—Tom Vickery on Current Use: There was a lively discussion about the problems with the Current Use Program, including abuses, not stiff enough penalties for withdrawal, possible raising the minimum of excluded land, capping, tiered benefits. Tom has devised a format that includes his alternative suggestions for changing and improving the current use system. Each town could enter their own information and determine if this formula would benefit their town. Towns are encouraged to work on this project and get the information back to Tom
The question was raised again—where does VALA stand on this issue? There are some who feel VALA should concern itself only with assessment policy and not get involved with rate setting. However, since the two are so closely related, and if VALA wants to be proactive in identifying problems and offering solutions, we need to decide where we want this organization to go in the future.
Old Business: Feedback on Annual Meeting—President Fike would like to get started on plans for the 2010 Annual Meeting, and at the January meeting establish a committee to accomplish this. Favorable comments were made about Mr. Sansoucy, who spoke on the evaluation of utilities-fair market vs. net book valuation.
The next meeting will be held back in Randolph at their newly renovated digs on January 6, 2010.
With no other business to conduct, the meeting was adjourned.
Attendees at the November 4, 2009 VALA meeting is as follows:
|Galen Mudgett, Jr.||Sharon||Orange|
|Todd LeBlanc||S Burlington||Chittenden|
|Rich Westman||Tax Commissioner|