ANNUAL MEETING MINUTES 2011

The meeting was called to order at approximately 9:00 a.m. with 54 in attendance. The first order of business was to elect a president.  Vice President Pat French nominated John Fike as President.  As there were no nominations from the floor, the Secretary was instructed to cast one ballot for John Fike as VALA President for the upcoming year.  John gave a review of the year noting that VALA’s presence continues to be visible in Montpelier by evidence of the participation of VALA members in the Current Use and other study committees at the request of legislators.

John then introduced the officers of VALA—Pat French, Vice President; Louise Ferris-Burt, Treasurer; and Carol Hammond, Secretary.  Louise reported that the Treasurer’s books have been checked by Pat French who said everything was good.   Carol and Penny spent much time in the preparation of the Annual Meeting, and also working on getting an accurate, up to date membership list.

Also introduced were chair people of the various committees-Education Committee….John Vickery, Todd LeBlanc.   Legislative—Randy Viens, Tom Vickery.  Newsletter and membership committee—Penny Allyn.

Penny is requesting pictures from Listers around the state and she is also is doing web design.

County Directors introduced.  John encouraged Listers to contact the Director from their county if there are any questions or concerns.

John briefly reviewed the contents of the packets that were handed out for each person attending.

Tom Vickery’s class on the shortcomings of the State Equalization Study– good feedback on the class by attendees and information on the findings will be or have been given to Bill Johnson.

Committee Reports—Randy Viens-Legislative:   Tom Vickery and Randy have been part of the Current Use Tax Coalition with the goal of making Current Use more viable for the future.  The sub committee met this summer will meet one more time before reporting back to the main committee by October.  Tom has been working with Deb Brighton to get some numbers back to the committee.  Randy stressed that he and Tom are part of this committee only in an advisory capacity.  The committee realizes the knowledge that Tom and Randy have and their deep interest in the subject.

John stressed the effect that phone calls, emails, etc can have on Legislators by their constituents.  Therefore, one goal of VALA is to keep Listers abreast of bills that are coming up so that they can call their legislators with concerns/questions before a bill is passed.

Randy said the issue of taxing travel trailers will be coming up again.

Tom Vickery said he is still pursuing the sharing of cost by the State for legal expenses incurred during the appeal process.

The revenue realized from Tom’s  Equalization Study Class will be used to hire someone to go through the numbers to see if it is still viable, and what improvements could be made, etc.

Education Committee:  John Vickery and Todd LeBlanc are working on the scholarship program; they did some polling and as a result will be tweaking the process.  A handout was furnished with education recommendations as of September 14, 2011 which also included the results of the VALA Scholarship Survey.  They noted that in 7 years, there have been only 4 applications for scholarships.

They are still looking for ideas for TOEC workshops.  Deed reading was mentioned as a high priority.

Abatements were also discussed as a topic because of the recent hurricane and flooding problems.  At least 20 towns were affected by the hurricane and as a side note, it was recommended that Abatement Boards be educated as to the effect of abatements on towns’ grand lists. While the town can abate both school and municipal taxes, the State will still get 100% of education taxes which means the towns will have to make up the difference perhaps in a surcharge tax the following year.

Pat French offered the Randolph office for abatement information meetings.

Listers are encouraged to call or email their suggestions for topics for TOEC workshops to John or Todd.

Website and newsletter—Penny Allyn:  The website is almost ready, Chuck’s part is done.  Penny and John will be working on adding information next year.  The Newsletter will continue to be a separate mailing.

Membership Committee is made up of John Fike, Penny Allyn and Carol Hammond.  A membership packet will be mailed to all members.

CAMA Committee–Ed Clodfelter:  Ed recently attended an IAAO conference in Arizona.  A note of interest was that in some states there has been a 70% foreclosure rate.

There will be a new CAMA “punch list” as the old list is complete.  If anyone has suggestions for the new list, call or email Chris Miele or Ed Clodfelter.

Peter Whitney is now working for the Department of Transportation and will be looking for abutters of state owned land….is developing new maps for this purpose.

County Meetings:  County Directors and Alternates were chosen and the new listing will be posted on the new website.

Michael P. Cyprian Lister of the Year Award

After a brief review of the background of the Michael P. Cyprian Award by John Fike, the award was presented to Randy Viens.  A testimonial read by Milton Lister Teri Sabens is included at the end of these minutes.
CONGRATULATIONS, RANDY!!!!!

The speaker for the morning was Chad Roberge, President of Avitar Associates, Terra Map Division.  Chad has combined his knowledge of assessing and mapping with a variety of map options and Avitar’s assessing software has proven to be popular among a growing number of Vermont and New Hampshire towns.

The importance of tax mapping was explained—that it is a critical part of a town’s service and a great PR tool for residents.  He also explained what can be done with mapping once it is in place…different overlays for ancient roads, zoning, etc.

Bill Johnson:  Thus far only 80 towns have responded to the survey from the State concerning damages sustained by the hurricane and consequent flooding.  Bill asked everyone to complete the surveys and send them to the State. It is a difficult process for everyone, just give best information that you have.   Towns need to take time to assess damages and not to be in a hurry to abate taxes until they know what the implications are for the town—i.e. tax rates   Towns can abate both municipal and education taxes, but since the Education Fund will get it’s 100%, the rest of the taxpayers will have to make up the difference….there is no free lunch.

The 1600 employees who worked in the Waterbury complex have been relocated where ever there is room.

In view of the storm and flooding, it is imperative that towns have off site storage of their records.

A question was raised about the State offering some guidelines to Abatement Boards listing the effects of abatement on the tax rate and taxpayers and the next year’s grand list.

EPTTR—web based transfers—next version will allow Listers to view transfers as they are recorded.  It will be a view only but could be printed out and perhaps downloaded onto a spreadsheet.

Each town will have a read only view of the whole state and also an export function of the report and will be able to print out the EPTTR.  Errors on the form cannot be fixed on the submitted form because it is a legal document but information can be adjusted at the time the sales study is done.   Michelle pointed out that the EPTTR is not a primary source document, but only a second or third level.  It was not meant to be a primary source document.  Listers should be looking at other documents first, i.e. deed, grand list, etc. for correct information.

Questions were also raised about category codes on the EPTTR—form is so busy now, with so much information, it would be difficult to include more information.  Category codes need to be upgraded—ones we use now are antiquated.  Ed suggested that the Listers could do it and then submit to the State for approval.

Question was raised as to why can’t we have an on line state wide data base?

John added that VALA is willing to work with PVR and help implement programs to accomplish these things.  We need to find a way to do things and not just keep saying why we can’t.

VALA wants to be a party at the table…things are changing; we are in a down market and Listers have to go further and further afield to find comparables.  The sales study and verification forms are a standard, it may not be a perfect standard but it is better than no standard at all.

Do changes in category codes or use codes require a legislative change?  No.

Cathy Powers was introduced as the IT person.

Mary Peterson, Tax Commissioner

Tropical Storm Irene:  Because of the problems that occurred as a result of the storm, the State extended the deadline for filing of homesteads, current use, adjustments, and renter rebates until October 1.

Abatements:  State can do nothing without a legislative change.  Statute is clear that Abatement is a local decision.  There is no way for the State to abate for an individual or to adjust a town’s liability for abatement decisions they have made.  State abatement only comes in effect if a town refuses to collect the property tax.

The 1st focus of the administration….helping people to dig out and find places to live.

2nd focus of the administration–getting money to towns…FEMA money, lending opportunities; pilot and current use money.

3rd area of focus is to assess damages and put a value on what has been damaged and/or lost.  A survey was sent out by Tax Department.  This has been a difficult budget year.  Neither the state nor national economy is doing well in general.

Strategic initiatives

Tax payer outreach and communication:  existing state website—hard to access, needs to be more user friendly.

Recommendation was made to scrap it and start over with clear consistent information and more relevancy.  Writing project:   all communications that go out from Tax Department will be reviewed for clarity.

The Commissioner would like to form a taxpayer advisory board with a separate board for property tax issues and will be looking to VALA for representation on that board.

Technology modernization….new processing system that will integrate all computer systems;  also engaged in digitization of current use.  A funding stream for these projects was received at the last legislative session.

Parking provision in Miscellaneous Tax Bill:  this was very confusing, and not well thought out as is often the case with bills tacked onto the Miscellaneous Tax Bill.  They met with the Agriculture Secretary, head of Agency of Natural Resources, and head of the Dept of Parks and Recreation.

The best course of action is for the administration to work through the Current Use bill that passed the House last session & is now sitting in the Senate.  She is confident that they will be able to take out the legislation that was passed last year which would have been very difficult to administer.

The Tax Department was charged to come out with feasibility study for the State to take over from the towns the billing and collection of the state wide education tax. Listers are encouraged to look this up on line or contact the Tax Department and a copy can be sent.  It is a 45 page study and the legislature is soliciting suggestions/ comments that they can review when they come back in January.  This bill will be a priority of the chair of the Ways and Means Committee.  Send notes to the Tax Dept and a list will be compiled and sent to the committee.

Lister Certification:  Since the Almay study is over a decade old, it would be a good time to order a new study, especially since so much has changed since that study was done.

A question was raised about tax rates in a declining market.

A committee is working on Lister certification.  Because of various setbacks this last year, it was felt that it was more important to keep education going and courses organized.  Therefore, Lister certification took a back seat.

The committee is about 90% done formulating the basis of a program for Listers to look at

Suggesting 3 levels of certification;

Nothing in statute that mandates education, but that PVR needs to provide education

  1. basic education…basic knowledge in the office and out in the field
  2. master lister..someone who is serious about listing, good working knowledge
  3. professional level of assessing…. would recognize employees not just Listers

Will there be specific courses necessary for each level.

Certification would give credibility to the office of Lister as well as resulting rate of pay

John Vickery–Need to get something out this year even if it isn’t complete.

Michelle–Wants to raise the outward perception of Lister.

Listers are considered the prime customers of Property Valuation and Review

Clerks and treasurers are considered professionals because they have taken classes and received certification.

Classes already taken would be applied to this new certification.  Education is prequalification to certification.

 Other comments made both by Michelle and Listers

Certification=credibility with clerks and selectboards.  Need to elevate the office of Lister

State Appraisers don’t feel we are competent.

Caution about certification process—could cause problems in how taxpayers, Selectboard, etc view Listers Based on their level of certification….feels it could work against us.

Recommendation for a State appeals board—do away with BCA and State Appraiser

State Appraisers are appointed but not accountable to PVR.

Not enough district advisors

State should share in the cost of appeals since the largest share of taxes is for the state wide education portion.

BCA should be eliminated—low or no pay, no requirement for education, and no incentive to be educated

Need to resurrect education classes for BCA.

Legislature has created plateaus…cheap to appeal to state appraiser who often has no respect for Listers’ expertise

If the State were to take over billing and collection of education taxes, what cost benefit would there be—cost would be greater—2 billings—postage, billing supplies, another level in government to administer

What benefit would there be to towns or to the state?   Duplication of effort

BCA—treat them for what they are, they know little about the grand list—Listers need to educate them.

BCA needs to know that Listers are presumed right and it is up to the tax payer to prove them wrong.

Who put Justices of the Peace on the BCA?

Listers need professional recognition to give to Selectboard…perhaps this would give more validity to our profession.  We are professionals

Would certification prevent people from wanting to be Lister?  Certification would be education oriented.

Needs to be conveyed to selectboards that Listers are professionals.

Send proposals/suggestions to the Tax Dept. for consideration.

Concern that money for Lister training doesn’t always go for Lister training

Listers in some towns don’t even know they have money allocated for training.

Letter from PVR goes to treasurers when money is deposited for Listers and what the money is for.  Letter should go to Listers also.

Michelle can’t cc Listers if a letter goes out to treasurer.

Michelle uses the current use email address for Listers

PVR is trying to use email more and more.

Per parcel payment letter will be sent to Listers

President’s closing comments

It is time to rethink our system — real estate market has changed, buyers are more sophisticated than they used to be…more knowledgeable…  Need to change systems to recognize this; the appeal process is out of date in today’s world

Want to hear more that we can do things rather than reasons why we can’t

4 years for certification is unacceptable.  There are people in this room who in a week could have put a syllabus together and put a program together to present to the group for review.

Tax Commissioner appreciated the vigor of our comments.

John introduced the next speaker, Kevin Bartlett from Real Data Corporation.

Real Data is a private enterprise that provides information to towns, the Dept. of Revenue and subscribers.

Working with Real Data would be a joint venture with PVR and could have a great impact on towns as we have fewer and fewer sales and have to look elsewhere for comparable sales.  It would be a good opportunity to work with Real Data to work on data management of the equalization studies.

This is a town specific utilization of publically released Vermont sales data, (released weekly) to review, compare and validate those sales for use in the annual Equalization Study.

After Mr. Bartlett’s presentation, the meeting adjourned at approximately 3:00 p.m.

Testimonial for Randy Viens

Randy started his venture in property valuation around 1983+/- as a licensed Real Estate broker serving the Chittenden county area. After enough of that he then took the required courses to obtain his Fee appraiser license around 1987+/-. He became a Lister in the town of Georgia in 1991, helped with the reappraisal for 1993 and continued as a Lister for Georgia until 1996. He continued with fee appraising until 1994 when he was hired by the Town of Essex. He started as assisting the town assessor with the title of appraiser; he did all the duties of a Lister and was eager to learn all the new changes as they occurred in the Vermont state statutes. He was promoted to the Town assessor in 2000+/- where he continues to do an outstanding job serving not only to the property owners in Essex but all property valuation departments in each town and city that calls on him.
In Essex Town and Village Randy goes out of his way to help all property owners understand fair assessments and shares all information on how we determine values to keep taxation fair among the taxpayers. After a great explanation, a few peanuts, some sweets out of the candy dish we have very happy tax payers leave with a great understanding on how we work for the property owners to keep accurate records and make sure we’re always on top of things. Randy always enforces the fact to the ‘shy’ folks that your property is your biggest investments don’t ever hesitate to come in and talk to us.
He has been the best boss and a great guy to work with, no swelled head for him; everything is equal in his eyes. ~ Terri Sabens – Assessor’s staff (& thanks to Penney Viens for some of the info and dates)
Randy has been a member of the VLCT Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations Policy Committee since 2006. That Committee develops the VLCT legislative platform for the coming year. He has represented the Vermont Assessors and Lister’s Association perspective on that Committee and since the property tax represents almost half of all state and local taxes collected in Vermont that is a big part of the public policy debate in the legislature every year.
Randy has always been a reliable representative of the Lister’s and VLCT before numerous legislative committee hearings. He spends the time necessary to assure that property tax law gets enacted with the legislators fully aware of the intricacies of and implications on the property tax. ~ Steve Jeffrey
Randy has been on the Legislative Committee of VALA for a number of years and has testified before both House and Senate committees on issues that concern Vermont Lister’s and Assessors. He has been a very effective speaker before these committees and has helped on legislation concerning Current Use, definition of a “parcel”, and subsidized housing. He keeps VALA informed of legislative action concerning property tax issues. Hopes this helps and am sure that John will add to this. ~ Tom Vickery

Feedback from Town officials:

As the chair of the Essex Selectboard, I have nothing but admiration for Randy Viens, our town assessor. Randy’s work has always been professional and knowledgeable and his contribution to the smooth running of the assessor’s office is very much appreciated by the Selectboard.

Personal qualities that make him a standout in his work with people:
I am also a member of the Essex Board of Civil Authority and I have been very impressed with Randy’s dealings with town residents and taxpayers. During BCA sessions regarding property tax assessments and requests for relief from taxes for a variety of reasons, Randy handles the questions with understanding and the ability to make sure Essex residents are given every opportunity to express their needs and concerns. Randy is a valued asset to the Town of Essex. ~ Linda Myers
Randy has a great disposition, work ethics and is a great team player. His high level of customer service is outstanding. Having him here is an extreme bonus for both the Town and Village of Essex. ~ Ann Myers – Managers office staff
Randy always maintains his cool in often times confronted by land owners. He makes sure when they walk away that they have a full understanding of the circumstances. His temperament should be used as a model to the up and coming generations. Always willing to lend a hand in any matter that may arise.
He is always good natured, even temperament, quick wit. He is a rock. If you need help, go see Randy. ~ Sharon Kelley – Community Development staff
At the Village Board of Abatement meeting in June, one of the parties asking for abatement of taxes cited “error of the Lister.” Randy initially questioned why they had not appealed the assessment when it was issued in 2007 or any of the years after. After some discussion, Randy set up an appointment with the property owner for later that week (the property owner was only in town briefly). Randy went to the property and did find some errors in the assessment. Based on what he saw, he was able to reduce the assessed value of the property by approximately $60,000. I think this is a good example of how Randy’s personality and responsiveness helps with how he deals with the public. ~ Susan McNamara-Hill, Clerk-Treasurer – Village of Essex Junction staff
Randy is an awesome person to worth with. Always happy to help – goes overboard. Always smiling, wonderful person as well as Lister. He makes the extra effort to provide the best info available in a very congenial way. ~ Lauren Morrisseau – Village of Essex Junction staff
Randy is thorough in explaining to residents what any additions or changes made to their property and how it affects their assessment. Randy is always friendly, smiling and eager to assistant in any way. ~ Terry Hass – Village of Essex Junction staff
One of the many things that make Randy stand out is the way that he deals with the public. I have witnessed him interacting with taxpayers, and watched him deal with irate individuals calmly and respectfully. He does a tremendous job of making the individual taxpayer understand the process and recognize that he is there to help and not antagonize. Throughout the recent reappraisal, he dealt with many unhappy taxpayers and did a great job of diffusing very negative situations and turning them into positive interactions in very trying circumstances. ~ Douglas Fisher – Finance Director

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Last Name First Name Town
Archer Sally Roxbury
Blakeslee George Guildhall
Chapman Robin Fairfax
Diggins Kitty Groton
Evanuk Phyllis Halifax
Graves Augusta Fayston
Hammond Carol Vernon
Johnson Bill PVR
Knott Dorothy Groton
Lay Doug PVR
LeBlanc Todd S. Burlington
Lynde Babbetta Westminster
Martynowski Charlene Halifax
McArthur Charles Morristown
McNall Patricia Fairfax
Noyes Sherry Burke
Paulsen Mark
Powers Cathie PVR
Russo James Leicester
Salazar Leo Andover
Salazar Frances Andover
Shields Bruce Eden
Trombley David Topsham
Walker Noel Fairlee
Wetzel John Fairlee
Wilson Michelle PVR
Siegel Geri North Hero
Dattilio Mary North Hero
Kilbride Jim North Hero
Viens Randy Essex
Sabers Terri Milton
Whitney Peter
Truchon Lisa Lincoln
Moore Pauline Manchester
Schribner Joyce Manchester
Green Perry Manchester
Miele Chris NEMRC
Clodfelter Ed Calais
French Pat Randolph
Sweetser Don Randolph
Fike John Reading
Allyn Penny Reading
Vickery John Burlington
Vickery Tom Stowe
Plaisted Pat Topsham
Degener Charles Woodstock
Wildasin Paul Woodstock
Wood Carol Woodstock
Jerard Al Brattleboro
Ferris-Burt Louise Bethel
Burstein Mimi Bethel
Holmes Clarissa Hartland
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