JANUARY 6, 2010

President John Fike called the meeting to order at 9:05 a.m. A listing of attendees follows the minutes.

A motion was made and seconded to approve the Secretary’s report. The motion passed.

The Treasurer’s report was read and accepted as follows:

Balance 11/30/09 $5,104.09
Dues Received 150.00
Food/Supplies 6.59
Rental Mtg Space 50.00
Total Expenses 56.59
Balance 11/30/09 General Fund 4,197.50
Balance 11/30/09 Education Fund 1,000.00
Balance 12/30/09 Checking Acct $5,197.50
102 Memberships have been paid currently

President Fike reviewed the comments from his report expressing thanks especially to Chuck Burt for his good work on the VALA website.

John Fike, Penny Allyn and Carol Hammond will be working on a newsletter that will be sent out by March with the objective of reaching Listers who are not yet members of VALA and to provided information as to what VALA has done and is doing which we hope will also encourage more Listers to join this organization. Our goal this year is more members and more communication.

We need feedback on educational needs—if you have thoughts or ideas on what would be good topics for the TOECs, please email the secretary.  NEMRC has started providing “Webinars” that seem to be working well. There is scholarship money available from VALA if there is a shortfall in town budgets.

Because of the focus of the Legislature on the cost and efficiency of the Current Use program, this is the time for VALA to step up to the plate and be heard with our concerns and suggestions for the viability and cost effectiveness of this program.

PV&R—Bill Johnson commented that the “punch list” from CAMA was much smaller than he had thought and that it should not be too costly to implement the remaining items.

Reappraisal Guidelines—after doing the sales study it was found that some towns that have done reappraisals are outside the legal parameters.  This is not acceptable and while there is no clear-cut solution, there is a need for more guidelines for Listers and appraisal firms in order to complete a good, certifiable reappraisal.  Perhaps a mailing could be sent out jointly from PVR and VALA to towns, listing basic requirements before the grand list is lodged.

Mark Paulsen—the equalization study is done and all towns should have received them. The request that has been made by Listers for several years is the automation of this study.  Because of limited personnel and resources, the process is moving slowly. It is not likely

that this may be accomplished this year but that this would be a transition period with PVR making sure that all of the internal workings are ok before the actual transmitting of data between the state and town is done.  Ultimately, an electronic file with state data would be sent to the towns, edited and sent back electronically as is now being done with the Current Use program.  It would also be possible to print out a copy when the report is finished.  This would be a huge improvement over the present system, in both time and accuracy.

Bill Johnson—Electronic filing of PTTR form

PVR has met with the Joint Fiscal Committee on the subject of the electronic filing of the Property Transfer Report, telling them where we are in the process and that we would like them to move it along.  The form would be filled out electronically by the attorneys and sent to PVR.  The issue of tax transfer payments will have to be resolved.  Town Clerk’s offices are not yet ready for electronic filing and would still like to receive a hard copy for now.  It was suggested that some fields would be mandatory since one of the problems with the current system is that many areas of information are not completed.  If the fields can be better controlled, accuracy should increase.  The new form will resemble the old form—not with multiple pages.  Lengthy discussion followed.

Education—Todd LeBlanc:

Todd and John Vickery are looking for topics for the spring TOECs.  Several suggestions were made, and topics included market approach, CAMA, and a class coordinated between VALA and PVR on Current Use—changes, updates, etc.

Because there are five locations for the TOEC’S, more instructors/presenters are needed even if for just one session.  Either John or Todd may be contacted if anyone is able to help.

By-laws—Galen Mudgett:   No report

Microsolve-CAMA—Ed Clodfelter commented on the commercial CAMA class that he taught and said that the main problem is that people do not know how to use the commercial program.  Some did not like the reports that were generated; and that the computer generated property cards needed improvement.

A second class could be held if necessary.  Contact the Education Committee, John Fike or Carol Hammond if you are interested.  In addition, there is a Microsolve commercial workshop posted on the NEMRC website.

Dave Tanner:  local land schedules need to be tweaked and there is a problem with the costing of outbuildings.

NEMRC:  Chris Miele reminded the group to make sure they are on the most current version of CAMA and NEMRC and to be sure to check for live updates.  He is working with PVR on the CAMA “punch list”.

The Grand List Seminar will be held in five locations this spring.  The Webinars are moving forward, with one scheduled later in the month on FoxPro Expressions.

Annual Meeting Committee:  John asked for volunteers to start working on the Annual Meeting—speakers, topics, location, etc.

Priscilla Robinson, Pat French, John Wetzel, Louise Ferris-Burt, and John Fike are the committee members.

Legislative Committee—Tom Vickery gave a brief review of the Current Use Program and its importance.  He then introduced Darby Bradley of the Vermont Land Trust.

The Legislature had challenged a summer study made up of representatives of the Vermont Land Trust, Vermont Natural Resources Council, the Vermont Nature Conservancy, Audubon Vermont, Rural Vermont, and the Vermont Farm Bureau to come up with proposals for changes/improvements that would result in an increase in revenue or reduction in spending by at least $1.6 million in FY 2011.

This coalition of agencies responded to the challenge by looking at ways”   to strengthen the efficiency, effectiveness and fairness of the law.”  The group met every two weeks and with a number of options that they first examined and then either rejected or kept.  The next step was to meet with other groups/committees, etc. to get feedback and suggestions.  Finally, the group submitted their study to the Joint Fiscal Committee and refinements continued until the final draft was drawn up in December.  The push was on, as the Legislature wanted this issue addressed within the first 30-45 days of the legislative session.

The following five proposals are the result of the research done by the summer study.  Mr. Bradley reviewed each proposal and a brief explanation of each is attached to this document.

  1. Increase the dwelling exclusion from two acres to 5 acres for most residences.
  2. Change method of calculation and collection of Land use Change Tax (LUCT)
  3. Give landowners an option to withdraw all or part of enrolled land
  4. Increase the Property Transfer Tax on sales of enrolled land
  5. Levy temporary $25 per parcel tax surcharge to complete electronic administration.

Sylvia Jensen from the Vt. Agency of Agriculture spoke briefly on the merits of the Current Use Program, emphasizing the point that prime agriculture land is also land prime for development.  “Vermont would not be Vermont without Current Use.”  She urged caution about passing legislation without knowing more of the possible negative consequences.

Ginger Anderson from the Vt Dept of Forests, Parks & Recreation also spoke of the importance of the Current Use Program.  She works closely with county foresters across the state.  According to the program, enrollees are required to have a forest management plan.  She reminded the group that forest products are the second largest manufacturing industry in the state.  She fears the consequences of passing legislation too quickly, and wonders if this is the right way to generate or save $1.6 million.

Bill Johnson then expressed PV&R’s view that the Current Use Program is essential and valuable, and it is important to preserve the integrity of the program.  However, there is the matter of the huge hole in the state’s budget and something has to be done about it.  There are those in the legislature that think Current Use has to be part of the equation.  The Ways & Means Committee will be taking testimony tomorrow on the Current Use issue in hopes that a speedy resolution can be accomplished.  If changes are made, there would be a very short window of time in which to administer them—it would require a lot of extra work for PVR which is short staffed, as well as a lot of additional work for Listers.

The Douglas administration has suggested a one-year moratorium on new enrollments into the program.  2009 applications would be on hold until 2010.  This would require no new work for Listers—any changes made could be done “in house” at PVR and then sent to the towns.  If the moratorium is implemented, it would save approximately $1.5 million and would give the legislature time to study and make intelligent decisions rather than just pushing this through.  There would be time for thoughtful discussions of changes/improvements and time to evaluate the means of implementation.

Tom Vickery stated that he felt VALA needs to make a decision this year.  The program needs to be redefined so that abuses can be corrected.  He also stated that it would take three years rather than one year to implement changes.

Steve Jeffrey expressed concerns that if a decision is not made soon, that the amount of money the state reimburses the towns for current use would be reduced in the interest of cutting the state budget deficit.  He would recommend that VALA make a decision today whether or not to support any or all of the proposals of the summer study committee headed by Mr. Bradley.  Another concern was if VALA didn’t support all 5 of the proposals, would that negate support of the whole report.

Sylvia Jensen reiterated that while she recognizes changes do need to be made and abuses addressed, the one-year moratorium would give time to thoughtfully find solutions.

There followed a lengthy time of questions, comments, suggestions and concerns that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Capping of tax benefits
  • Tiering of benefits—(i.e. getting a better rate if land is not posted)
  • Increase land use values
  • Increase penalty for withdrawal
  • Enrollment not allowed if intention is to develop (i.e. subdivision plans, actively advertising for sale)
  • Increase tax rate
  • Vt. Land tax is the problem—won’t be fixed by Current Use
  • Changing from 2-acre to 5-acre exemption—lots of concerns, labor intensive, shifts burden to occupied property

A straw vote was taken as to VALA’s position on proposals 1-5.

  1. Oppose
  2. Support
  3. Support
  4. Support
  5. Support

In addition to the above proposals, the group also voted to support:

  1. Tiered fee adjustment
  2. Tax capping concept
  3. Increase in land use values

Todd LeBlanc made a motion that VALA support the one-year moratorium on new enrollments for the 2010 tax year.  (These would be applications made by September 2009).  The motion was seconded by Babs Lynde.  The motion passed.

This would save approximately $1.5 million and give a year to make changes that would be implemented in 2011.

Todd LeBlanc made a motion to accept the results of the straw vote.  Galen seconded the motion.  The motion passed.

With no other business to conduct, the meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Carol Hammond, Secretary




Tom Vickery Stowe Lamoille
Terry Knight Williamstown Orange
Harry Rousch IVS Chittenden
Howard Burgess Rutland Rutland
Robert Vickery Jericho Chittenden
Cheryl Thomas Jericho Chittenden
Richard Lewis Lewis Appraisal Svcs Washington
Clarissa Holmes Hartford Windsor
Camilla Roberts Rockingham Windham
Ron Dreher Wells Rutland
Charles Mason Pawlet Rutland
Pat French Randolph Orange
Don Sweetser Randolph Orange
Tom Marrone Plymouth Windsor
David Alexander Brookfield Orange
Phyllis Newton Vernon Windham
Carol Ackley Plymouth Windsor
Penny Allyn Reading Windsor
Mark Paulsen PVR
Teri Anderson Guildhall Essex
Randy Viens Essex Chittenden
Darby Bradley Vt Land Trust
Steve Jeffrey VLCT
Al Jerard Brattleboro Windham
Barbara Sammon Barnard Windsor
Virginia Nix Barnard Windsor
Richard Lancaster Barnard Windsor
Noel Walker Fairlee Orange
John Wetzel Fairlee Orange
Bruce Shields Eden Lamoille
Charlie Degener Woodstock Windsor
Paul Wildasin Woodstock Windsor
Dave Tanner PVR
Amanda Beaulieu Newbury Orange
Priscilla Robinson Warren Washington
Ed Clodfelter Calais Washington
Alison Joseph Dickinson Ripton Addison
Walter Hastings Royalton Windsor
Michelle Wilson PVR
Babetta Lynde Westminster Windham
Galen E Mudgett, Jr Sharon Windsor
Bill Johnson PVR
Carol Hammond Vernon Windham
Louise Ferris-Burt Bethel Windsor
Todd LeBlanc S Burlington Chittenden
Randall Mulligan Colchester Chittenden
Chris Miele NEMRC
John Fike Reading Windsor
Ginger Anderson Vt Dept Forests,Parks
Sylvia Jensen Vt Dept Agriculture
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