BI-MONTHLY GENERAL MEETING MINUTES JANUARY 5, 2011

MINUTES OF THE VALA DIRECTORS MEETING

January 5, 2011

The meeting was called to order at approximately 9:00 a.m. by President John Fike. A list of attendees follows the minutes.

The Secretary’s report was approved on a motion by Louise Ferris-Burt.  The motion was seconded and passed.

The Treasurer’s report was accepted on a motion by Charles Mason.  The motion was seconded and passed and reads as follows:

Balance 10/31/2010 $5,260.46
Dues Received $60.00
Expenses
Domain Reg – 10 yr $146.70
Refreshments 23.12 Total Expenses $169.82 Balance 10/31/2010 General Fund 4,150.64 Balance 10/31/2010 Education Fund 1,000.00 Balance 10/31/2010 Checking Acct $5,150.64 YTD Memberships received 122 plus 4 for next 4 years prepaid

Committee Reports:

Education—John Vickery:  John is planning a workshop on development value of property using subdivision sales—purchase price, sell time period, selling price; expected return on investment, etc.    Bill Smith will be doing 2 back to back workshops, on  measuring central tendency.    Kelly Monte may be doing a  workshop geared to new Listers on reading deeds, understanding terminology, etc.

John is also looking at ways to make VALA scholarships more effective; at present we are not offering enough scholarships; he will bring recommendations to March meeting.

As has been mentioned previously, if anyone sees an area of need for more information and has suggestions for a workshop, please contact John Vickery, Todd LeBlanc, or Michelle Wilson.

Legislative/VLCT –Steve  Jeffrey:  Issue of prorating cost of appeals between the towns and the state will be discussed.  One major change in Ways and Means is that Michael Obuchowski will be leaving  after 40 years in the Legislature. New chairman of the Ways and Means Committee will probably be Janet Ancel, former tax commissioner.  There doesn’t seem to be many changes in the Senate Finance Office.

The state is facing a $150 million shortfall in the states budget.  A lot of that is in the Education Fund. The state general fund has to come up with approximately $38.8  million for the Ed fund since federal stimulus money that was used for the last two years has now gone away.  Also, the general fund has shorted the Education fund 18 million dollars for the last 2 or 3 years and there is a commitment to replace that amount this year.  There is some additional funding from stimulus money  to nationally help avoid some of the teacher layoffs that would be happening.  Gov Douglas wanted to use some of that money for helping with back funding teacher retirement fund.  But it was felt that the use of that money could not be extended for that purpose.   Both Gov. Shumlin and school districts feel the money can be used to help ease the responsibilities of the school boards in trying to reduce 23 million dollars from local school budgets this year  A lot of money the state is talking about are new obligations or renewed obligations.  If school boards aren’t successful in reducing their budgets next year, then there will be an increase in the school tax.

Shumlin says no increase in taxes……but the education tax will go up because there are just too many shortfalls.  Two thirds of schools couldn’t meet the mandated tax reduction.  There is 19 million dollars that can be used this year, but it will not be available in future years.  How much can you cut without hurting the system.

Transportation looks better this year.  Another issue—taxing soft drinks.

A blue ribbon commission looking at taxes—focusing on the general fund…….broadbasing income tax and sales tax in order to lower tax rates;  Vermont has a  high  income tax rate with a narrow tax base…if the base were expanded the rate would be lower and results would be revenue neutral.     Broad base sales tax would include taxing services—-which would lower the rate.

Property tax on exempt properties…the legislature is very concerned about the number of exempt properties in the state—don’t know how much they are worth.. They question why towns aren’t reporting them and the answer in part is why spend money to have them assessed if they aren’t going to generate tax revenue.  Towns get reimbursed for exempt properties but that would be taken away.  Bruce Shields commented that many towns have grand lists that have shrunk and how will this affect the Education Fund outlook—declining enrollment, changes—going down this year.  It is estimated that there will be a  .2% decrease in coming year.

Special interest groups would have something to say about taxing tax exempt properties.  Commission will be looking at how much revenue could be generated from tax exempt properties.  Would town owned property be assessed on school side?

Legislative Committee:  VALA represented by Tom and Randy has been part of many discussions, especially in the areas of current use and on the issue of the state sharing the costs of appeals with the town.  Last year H 485, was passed but vetoed by governor.  When Tom and Randy met with the coalition earlier in the summer, it didn’t look good for any kind of compromise.   But since that time, the group has really come around, realizing that they need to accomplish something before the legislature meets and makes changes on their own.

There are about 14 organizations that are part of the coalition and of those, only 2 organizations were completely opposed to change—Forest Products and Farm Bureau.  Tom gave a brief review of changes that could be made to the program;  changes in the Land Use Change Tax;  penalties for withdrawal would  be based on how long the land has been in the program.  Concern was expressed about the number of parcels under 25 acres.  Sylvia Jensen commented that there were 1062 parcels in the program that were under 25 acres.

John expressed gratitude to Tom and Randy for their part in making VALA much more visible in this area.

Mr. Shumlin supported H 485 last year and has expressed his opinion that changes need to be made in the program in order to keep it viable.  Even though the bill was vetoed last year, it may be that a better bill will be drawn up and passed this year.

Tom asked if VALA wants the Legislative Committee to continue to work in this area.

Louise moved that the Legislative Committee continue to work on Current Use Revisions.  The motion was seconded and passed.

PV&R—Bill Johnson:  Equalization Study—overall it was a minus 1.5% and looking at the last few years, 2006, which was the last real growth year, is now out of the study.  2007 was flat, 2008 and 2009 were down years, and 2010 was flat.  Because of the new buyer credit, owner occupied sales were up a bit, but once the credits went away, it flattened out…..non owner occupied residential sales were weak, especially condos.

Current Use Bill will take a lot of PV&R’s time; Exemptions:  exempt properties, really hard to value—talking about the old bill H 53.

New PTTR program is live as of January 4, so far so good.  There will be two systems—people can do their own or go through an attorney.

There will be a staffing reduction in PV&R.  Dave Tanner will be leaving.  Some  IT functions will be centralized and Dave will be moving in that direction.  At present, Dave is working on CAMA changes.   2008 cost tables are available—base costs have decreased about 2-3% and values of fixtures have increased 2-3%.

Bill Smith will be retiring but will be filling in temporarily until replacements can be made.

Michelle Wilson—  The EPTTR (Electronic Property Transfer Return) is available.  Designed for all users, not just for legal people but for the general public—has been made as user friendly as possible.  It can be made out and submitted to the Town Clerk.  Document, after submitted, can be printed out.  It will look much different than the form in the booklet.   The date of closing will be used rather than date of record.

At present, Town Clerks can export pertinent information to the Listers, but by June, the Listers will be added as users.  There was much further discussion about changes and Michelle said if anyone has a problem with the new form and procedure, to give PV&R a call.  Anyone can also go to www.tax.vt.gov and at that website, click on E-SERVICES, then EPPTR.  At this point, there are several choices, the last one being the training tutorial.

Homestead Declaration:  no change for Listers—a list will be sent from PV&R of last year’s filers which will need to be checked in case there are changes in the Homeowners status since last year.

Many questions were raised and it was suggested that everyone read the document put out by the Vermont Dept of Taxes in December, 2010 entitled PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS & VT HOMESTEAD DECLARATION which includes all the pertinent information on filing or withdrawing a homestead as well as buyers and sellers obligations.

Lister Certification is still on the “to do” list.  The education schedule should be finished this month so that it can be mailed out in February.  There will be an IAAO course 101 the first week of October.

Penny Allyn:  Question in the last Newsletter had to do with the valuation of solar installations and off the grid property.  There was quite a bit of discussion on the subject with the consensus being that sales prices have not demonstrated a difference because of being off the grid.  Choice vs. necessity was discussed and how the cost of bringing in power could affect value.

If anyone has suggestions or input, please let Penny and John know.  For the first time (after 4 issues) they actually received feedback

Mark Paulsen:  This is the first year for the automated equalization study.  They were mailed out on time…it has been a good transition year.  There can be a spreadsheet generated that would show sales removed from the study.

VALA Website:  Penny and Chuck Burt are looking at websites. A designer and developer have been line up. There continues to be a lot of “hits” on the VALA website.  Hopefully the new website will be more interactive but still user friendly.

CONDO & COMMERCIAL Committee: Ed Clodfelter–

Webinar—statistics in the CAMA program—went well;     Ed is now the Vermont representative for IAAO.  A good deal is being offered by IAAO—a 2 year membership for $200.00.  IAAO also offers webinars and there is one coming soon taught by Peter Korpacz who is an expert on the economy and well worth hearing.

There will be a 2 day class on Highest and Best Use in Wellesley.  Both John and Ed encouraged everyone to take IAAO classes…….they are quality classes—hard, intensive, but worth the effort.

NEMRC—Chris Miele:  Photos and sketches for each section on a property card is now a reality. Instructions will be forthcoming.

Updates to CAMA—almost everything on the punch list has been done. But there are still some things that will need some fine tuning between the NEMRC and CAMA programs.

There is no longer the necessity for separate entity 60 for the reappraisal year.

Chris emphasized the need to watch for updates on both the NEMRC  and  CAMA sides.

Exempt Properties:  there was discussion on what properties qualify for tax exempt status according to statute, and what is exempted by taxpayers in any given town.

The meeting adjourned at approximately 12:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Carol Hammond, Secretary

ATTENDEES

Name Town County
Pat French Randolph Orange
Tom Vickery Stowe LaMoille
Penny Allyn Reading Windsor
Steve Jeffrey VLCT
Charles Mason Pawlet Rutland
Richard Lancaster Barnard Windsor
Mark Paulsen PV&R
Babs Lynde Westminster Windham
Phyllis Newton Vernon Windham
Terry Thayer Ludlow Windsor
Carol Ackley Plymouth Windsor
Tom Marrone Plymouth Windsor
Clarissa Holmes Hartford Windsor
David Alexander Brookfield Orange
Michelle Wilson PV&R
Mimi Burstein Randolph/Bethel Orange
Arlene Batschelet Orwell Addison
Jean Audet Orwell Addison
Cheryl Tudhope Orwell Addison
Bruce Shields Eden LaMoille
Don Sweetser Randolph Orange
David Tanner PV&R
Robert Vickery Colchester Chittenden
George Blakeslee Guildhall Essex
Bill Johnson PV&R
Noёl Walker Fairlee Orange
John Wetzel Fairlee Orange
Mary Jo Teetor Poultney Rutland
Carolyn Kinney Poultney Rutland
Chris Miele NEMRC
Carol Hammond Vernon Windham
John Fike Reading Windsor
Louise Ferris-Burt Bethel Windsor
Todd LeBlanc S Burlington Chittenden
John Vickery Burlington Chittenden
Ed Clodfelter Calais Washington
Randy Viens Essex Chittenden
Camilla Roberts Rockingham Windham
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