VALA’s Annual Meeting was called to order at 9:00am by President John Fike who welcomed those present and introduced Vice President, Pat French; Secretary, Carol Hammond; Treasurer, Louise Ferris-Burt. Also introduced was Randy Viens of the Legislative Committee, John Vickery of the Education Committee and Lisa Truchon also of the Education Committee and who is also working with NEMRC. There were 70 members in attendance which included Listers from 41 towns and all 14 counties.
President John Fike: Gave his President’s Annual Report which included the announcement that Membership in VALA has increased to 139 members representing 60 towns. There are also 6 professional memberships. Windsor County has the largest representation in VALA with 10 towns.
The VALA Newsletter: Has been getting great reviews.
The roles and responsibilities of delegates: Have been established and the by-laws updated.
The Depreciation Class: Scheduled for October 9th has been sold out. If enough interest is generated another class will be held in the spring of 2013.
The State of Vermont: Is pushing for county assessment – VALA is not in favor of this move.
Vice-President Pat French: At this point in the meeting nominated John Fike as President. The motion was seconded. 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.
The Treasurer’s Report was present by Louise Ferris-Burt: One change this year is that there is now a requirement for VALA to file with the IRS annually. Ms. Ferris-Burt also encouraged those present to make use of the VALA scholarship fund. Dolores Funari of Brandon moved to accept the Treasurer’s Report. The motion was seconded and passed.
John Vickery: Commented on the Equalization and Sales Studies Class. There are no firm plans for classes for the upcoming year-however if any, they will be co-coordinated with PVR. Since the Depreciation Class for October 9th is filled, there will be one held in March, 2013-again with Mr. Bob Estey.
The VALA SURVEY OF LISTERS that John Vickery handed out is to better understand the compensation level of Listers throughout the state. Mr. Vickery would like to enhance the Listers profile with a goal to elevation of the office. A question was raised as to the status of Lister Certification. Suggestions were made that the survey results be posted on the VALA Website and that PVR post information on Lister compensation.
Todd LeBlanc: Expressed concerns about the Excel Class that was held in August. Several people felt that there should have been proficiency requirements for the class and that a requisite of a laptop computer for class prevented many from signing up. Mr. LeBlanc also said there was a possibility of an Excel workshop at the TOEC in the spring. Mr. Chris Miele of NEMRC stated that there were Excel tutuorials on the web of both basic and advanced levels. Other workshops under consideration are properties with contamination and subsidized housing.
Randy Viens: Reported that this is a new biennium so everything starts anew. The Current Use Bill #H237 died in the Senate Finance Committee but will be looked at again this year. The potable waster issue-language needs changing. H588, a bill that would initiate the sharing of costs of appeals that go beyond the BCA level. There are 10 sponsors for this bill with most from the Ways and Means Committee.
The Supreme Court voted to merge the Rockingham and Essex covenant housing into one decision.
Billing and collection of education taxes – Ways and Means are not too enthusiastic about the idea – VALA has presented many reasons why it is not a good move. David Trombley of Topsham moved to accept Mr. Vien’s presentation and continued legislative policy. The motion was seconded and passed.
Michael P. Cyprian Lister of the Year Award:
After brief review of the background of Michael P. Cyprian Award by John Fike, the award was presented to Augusta (Gussie) Graves from the town of Fayston. In addition to Mr. Fike’s remarks, Gussie was surprised by the appearance of the Fayson Town Clerk and members of the Selectboard who presented her with flowers and a gift in appreciation of her committment to her job and to her town.
By-Laws – It was moved by Jeanne Johnson of Cabot to accept the changes made to the by-laws. Todd LeBlanc offered a friendly amendment to the wording in Article 3 Section 1 that “herein after” be changed to “here in”. The motion was seconded and passed.
Bill Johnson PVR: Commended VALA upon becoming a viable and visible organization. His comments included the return to the annual filing of the homestead; Lister access to the EPTTR system; increase in usage of this on-line feature – up to 40% now. There has been resistance to using the system, mostly from attorney’s. Improvements to Current Use – applicants will be able to apply on-line resulting in greater compliance.
Lister Certification – There will be information sent to VALA members by October 15th, in which input will be requested so that by January 1, 2013, there will be something in place.
Solar Generation – On facilities over 10K in size, the education tax will be a capacity tax billed and collected by the state. On the municipal side, the facility will be assessed at fair market value. The reason for the capacity tax is that it would be one of many incentives to encourage solar generation, with being able to sell electricity for approximately $0.30 per kWh. A facility of less than 10K will be exempt from taxation for 10 years. The idea of the sunset of 10 years is to see if the solar facility has a positive or negative effect on property value.
Mr. Johnson also asked VALA to form a committee to help on homestead allocations for non-residentials on residential property. It has been found that allocation is not being done consistently across the state and this affects property tax adjustments.
There is a Current Use valuation issue – some legislators feel that Listers over-evaluate enrolled land to increase the pilot payments. They feel that this practice is pervasive throughout Vermont and that Current Use property is assessed differently than others. The topic of homestead declarations and how much credence should Listers give to the declarations were discussed with the majority opinion that it was at the Listers’ discretion. The question was raised as to whether there is a link between IRS and PVR Tax Department that would affect reporting by the tax payer. There is no link at this time; there are still privacy issues and nasty penalties if they are violated.
The business meeting was adjourned and the remainder of the morning was given over to Jim Barlow, Senior Staff Attorney for the VLCT Municipal Assistance Center. Mr. Barlow’s topic was “Tales of the BCA”.
After the lunch break, the speaker was Ed Clodfelter who is the Senior Appraiser for NEMRC. Mr. Clodfelter’s topic was “Doing Your Own Reappraisal, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”.
After Mr. Clodfelter’s presentation, the meeting adjourned at approximately 3:00pm.