MINUTES OF THE GENERAL VALA MEETING
NOVEMBER 7, 2012
The Bi-Monthly Meeting was called to order at approximately 10:00am by President John Fike.
Mr. Fike gave a brief overview of the Directors meeting with the following:
As of today, Vala has 180 individual memberships, representing 77 towns and 12 professional memberships.
The 77 towns represent approximately 30% of the towns in Vermont – Vala’s goal is to reach 100% of the towns.
- Election of officers – Pat French as Vice President, Carol Hammond as Secretary and Don Sweetser as the new Treasurer.
- Committee assignments have been made and will be posted on the website as well as at the end of the minutes.
- Additional cost for the 2012 Annual Meeting attributed to increased prices of new food service.
President John Fike relayed that a speaker has been lined up for the 2013 Annual Meeting with the topic of “The Other Side of Current Use–From a Forester’s Point Of View”. There were excellent reviews of Jim Barlow’s “Tale of the BCA” at the 2012 Annual Meeting.
President Fike stated there were 41 attendees at the VALA sponsored Depreciation Class taught by Mr. Bob Estey. Feedback from the Depreciaton Class Survey was positive and the Depreciation Class will again be offered in the spring (possibly during the month of April) of 2013.
- Mr. Steve Jeffrey discussed the amicus brief filed by VLCT on behalf of Colchester. He stated there are actually two appeals that are being merged making things a little more complicated-one that has come through the courts and one through the state appraiser. But this will give more time to revisit the briefs and there is still time if VALA wants to join VLCT. Mr. Jim Barlow has done the brief but can revisit it to get VALA’s name included.
- VLCT has also agreed to have VALA join in the amicus brief regarding the merger of the perpetual affordable housing appeals from Essex and Rockingham.
- VLCT is opposing the State billing and collection of the education tax. Mr. Jeffrey stated he doesn’t expect many changes in the Legislature from last year.
- Mr. Bill Johnson from PV&R stated that Legislature is not yet in session.
- There is possible legislation that would authorize PV&R to do an equalization study for an assessment district. Several municipalities would be joined together and have a uniform method of assessing all properties across the municipalities and also have a common reappraisal schedule. It would be one unit as opposed to separate municipalities and treated as a single unit for the purposes of equalization. It was the towns of Essex County that brought this issue to the forefront to do a single study for all these municipalities. Tom Vickery and Randy Viens indicated an interest in the subject.
- There are appeals by TransCanada in Vernon, Barnet, Waterford, Rockingham and Newbury. Hartford is not part of the appeal.
- Mr. Bill Johnson also stated PV&R is attempting to organize a meeting of all affected towns to determine how the state and towns might participate in the appeals process.
- Bill Johnson commented on the VALA Committee and stated he would like to see a consistent moderate approach and is working towards obtaining money for FY 2014 to work on larger issues. Mr. Johnson indicated a lot of good things have been done and the committee needs to be visible so that everyone is aware of what is happening.
- Methane Digesters were discussed – previously, they were part of proposed legislation, than removed and are now back under consideration. They can be enrolled as a farm building in Current Use. At this time, there are 12 -13 of these around the state and are associated with only very large farms as they would not be economical for smaller farms. They could provide a significant 2nd income. Most farms with digesters are not doing net metering…all generation is going into the electric transmission system. The value of these digesters is substantial, and while they are used for manure management on the farm, they can be income producing. There are two applications at present–one will be enrolled, and the other one denied. A technical bulletin will be forthcoming regarding the qualifications.
- There are 66 cheese plants around the state of Vermont with an underground cave for aging cheese. The 1st $100,000 of appraised value of a secondary processing plant is allowed in Current Use.
- PV&R is doing an amicus brief on behalf of the town of Colchester but is staying out of the perpetual affordable covenent housing.
- Veterans’ exemptions – there needs to be a better job done next year at getting information out to veterans.
- Education – PV&R needs to work with VALA’s Education Committee on the timing of classes.
- Mr. Johnson discussed meeting with Michelle Wilson regarding the Lister Certification Program and to review feedback on the structure of the program. A January 1, 2013 is still planned for initiating the program.
Education Committee Update:
- John Vickery discussed the survey results from the Depreciation Class which has resulted in classes/workshops being offered through TOEC and One Day Seminars.
- Pauline Moore from Manchester discussed the House Bill in 2011-2012 which gave towns without charters the authority to replace Listers with an appointed Professional Appraiser or Appraisal Firm and to eliminate the office of Lister. This person or firm would be approved by the Director of PV&R and would be required to follow all rules of Listers with the same liabilities and perform the same function. This was brought by several towns in 2011 and Jeff Wilson will be bringing it forward again this year. The bill would designate either the Selectboard or Listers to hire the assessor or assessor firm. There followed much discussion on the pros and cons of Listers versus Assessors as well as an Assessor working for a Board of Listers, or the Listers working under and Assessor.
Legislative Committee Update:
- Randy Viens comments on the Current Use Tax Coalition stated they want to continue working on changes to the program, especially the tiered penalty. Another meeting is scheduled for November 19th to get things together before the legislative session starts. They are working to put together a paper to show their position.
- Tom Vickery provided an update on the end of the last legislative session where the Westman amendment passed. The amendment indicated any waste water approval was going to create a problem and gave a charge to Forest & Parks to determine which current use parcels had extra waste water permits and found that this would be impossible to administer. Forest & Parks stated they could not administer this program and there is a need to eliminate the Westman amendment and find a correction for it. The amendment created more of a problem than what it solved. Forest & Parks did recognize the problem however it did not address issues of waste water permits for developments. This could be handled in the Miscellaneous Tax Bill.
- Chris Miele from NEMRC discussed the 2013 webinars, ie; Grand List Seminars coming in the spring, Commercial Class–new “stuff” coming!
- Stressed the importance of keeping track of changes and the reconciliation of the Grand List.
- Reviewed linking photos to CAMA data base.
Membership Chair Report:
- Penny Allyn provided an update on the VALA website – Visits to the site have been increasing with interest from several new states and even countries as far away as Egypt, New Zealand and Australia.
- The VALA Newsletter will be posted on the website some time in January. Posting to the site rather than sending out individually is more effective due to frequent email changes.
- Christie Wright’s information sheet on Quality and Conditions that was discussed at the previous VALA Class will be on the VALA website. Guidelines for RFP will be put back on the website.
- Revised by-laws are on the website. Biggest change, slate of officers will be presented at the annual meeting for voting by members present.
- Propane Generators is a quality issue; is there contributory value and are there sales to prove it. How to value; some generators are only source of electricity – off the grid; some are backup generators; some are for the whole dwelling, some partial. Need to be able to defend any value placed on them. Generators are becoming more common throughout the state.
- Apex 5 problems – Lots of discussion revolved around need to delete all other versions when Apex 5 is downloaded. Combination of understanding what goes on in the program and behind the scenes. Issues include the “define area” part and defaults, copying data files, changes in data files from one version to another. Question was raised as to whether Apex is doing their part–more than just installation of the program. Chris Miele from NEMRC explained some of the nuances of the program which may have been too far beyond the ability of the attendees at the meeting. So, some members might need to check with Chris at a later date for an explanation.
Tom Vickery moved that VALA join VLCT in the amicus brief for the Rockingham and Essex appeal and the Colchester appeal showing VALA’s support for these towns. The motion was seconded and passed.
Emails have been received regarding: CLA/COD impact on the sales study – concensus being that it is unfair to small towns.
Tom Vickery explained the equalization study problems using Addison County as an example. He would like an equalization committee to work with PV&R to come up with solutions to fix bad practices. It is important to know what is happening in the study. The state sets the criteria, towns have no input. VALA needs to make recommendations to the legislature for possible changes that they see as problems and let the legislative process do it. PV&R will not do it unless there is a push and the courts are not going to do it…there has to be a solution realized.
The Town of Reading appealed their equalization study and won. IAAO clearly states that towns should be involved in the study because they know aberrations in the sales. Workable changes need to be made in the study. VALA needs a voice in the equalization study criteria. If anyone is interested in getting involved in this project, please contact either Randy Viens or Tom Vickery. VALA President John Fike will contact Bill Johnson from PV&R to see if there can be a joint committee to work on this.
Randy Viens moved to adjourn at 12:30pmn. Motion was seconded and passed.