VALA General Meeting
January 7, 2015
President John Fike opened the General Meeting by thanking everyone for coming despite the weather.
VLCT Steve Jeffrey discussed Legislative issues and updates that included the State Budget (June 30th) projected $17 million shortfall. The projected $100 million deficit that the legislative is faced with comes from a too high revenue growth projection. While the House is committed to cost control in Education Fund, the Senate has yet to commit. Of interest was there were no senators present at a recent (November) Chamber of Commerce round table. Three areas of focus are cost containment, a partial residential income tax, and unification of relationship between State and Towns. State to determine how much to send to each region and how the monies will be spent. VLCT has been advocating reducing the burden of Education (property tax). Act 60 changed 60% to 70% of total Bill and burden has since shifted in particular to those residents who are not income sensitive.
Randolph Assessor Pat French questioned whether you can have a simple tax system or a fair tax system. Steve Jeffrey responded that the tax system has lost a lot of transparency, understandability and simplicity. Local schools are taking more of the burden rather than Human Services. No one thing puts the budget over the edge, but so many things. Schools are so much more than reading, writing and arithmetic.
Discussed demise of the Single Payer System – Indicated that if the State had shifted State Employees and Teachers into the system it would have reduced the debt shortfall.
Bethel Lister Louise Ferris-Burt stated she was very much against reducing rebate income sensitivity. Steve Jeffrey stated at one point the State was looking at doing away with subsidies (subsidized housing). Expect this to be on the agenda this year.
President John Fike stated a goal of VALA is to partner with VLCT to work on issues and an example would be Tax Bill language. One item that came up for discussion was the State helping with costs of appeals. CLA’s slowly going down for majority of towns.
PV&R Jim Knapp reported there was little to update on the State-Wide Parcel Mapping. Annual Report being drafted and upon completion will be posted on the PV&R web site. Miscellaneous Tax Bill still being drafted as well. Look to January 15th report to Legislature.
Announcement that Stern Allen has retired and interviews are currently taking place with potential replacement candidates.
Legislative Committee Randy Viens stated there is nothing new in C.U. Appointed last fall and 1st meeting was a learning curve. Provided costs related to Ag. Land, Forest formula, and income cap.
Membership Chair Penny Allyn provided membership update – 297 memberships, 13 professional memberships and town memberships now number 112. Future goal would be to have all Vermont Towns represented in VALA. Website www.valavt.org has been updated. Articles needed for the next VALA Newsletter.
NEMRC Ed Clodfelter announced a Basic CAMA Class on January 30th. First release of 2014 cost tables will be available soon. There have been a lot of changes over the last few years. NE Regional IAAO Meeting to be held from the 17th through 19th at Portsmouth, NH. Leading expert will be speaking at the meeting. Vendors will be present and latest software. Very nice program and Ed Clodfelter is on the Executive Committee for the N.E. Regional IAAO. President John Fike encouraged members to join IAAO.
NEMRC Chris Miele reported that legislatively Listers are not supposed to change Grand List once pass the December 30th deadline. Final 411 reports are due. NEMRC has completed the on-line Lister Basics Class. There will be a Basic CAMA in house class end of the month. If a higher number of attendees sign up then NEMRC will look at an on-line class. Reminder there will be a February Webinar Class on Downloading Homesteads that will be one hour long. The 2nd annual Advanced CAMA Class has been scheduled for later in February. A Grand List Seminar has been scheduled for the last two weeks in March. NEMRC is considering putting together a C.U. Webinar. If the school budget does not get approved before tax bills, NEMRC can help! Try to convey to school boards to complete budget and approval in a timely manner. Alert! Computer Viruses can be deadly! Be careful what you download. Back up everything! Web sites and email attachments can be carrying viruses. Call sender of email if you are unsure as to whether or not they sent the email before opening.
Vernon Lister Carol Hammond brought up recent IAAO exam and what can be done to let the class participants know the answers to questions they got wrong.
Legislative Committee Tom Vickery distributed hand out on VALA Ed Fund Change Proposals that Tom Vickery prepared. Please see below:
Change the ED ETR to one TR (no longer have a Resident and Non-Resident TR)
Currently 112 towns have an ED Resident TR higher than the ED Non-Resident TR. More than half the towns now would have the ED Resident TR higher or within 5 cents of the ED Non-Resident TR. When Act 60 was originally passed, this differential was at $0.25 cents and was one of the major reasons for passage of the Act (artificial infusion of money from the Non-Resident property owners). It may be time to eliminate this ED Non-Resident TR. This would help to stop the division (we against them attitude) between the two types of property owners that we, as listers, listen to year after year. It would also eliminate the political turmoil each year of the legislature trying to politically balance the ED TRs. Should VALA support going to one educational tax rate?
Change the fictitious Block Grant amount to a meaningful amount
The Ed Fund formula depends on a base education spending amount that is very low. It should have increased this past year, but was lowered by the legislature and the administration which caused a hidden tax rate increase for most of the towns. This spending amount should have meaning and should be tied to the yearly average net spending of the school districts. All school districts should pay and receive this base amount, even if the school district is paying less, as it is a state wide tax. Any school district that is spending more would pay the excess with an additional local education tax rate based on that spending excess. In this way, the voters will have a direct positive or negative say in voting their school budgets. The Brigham decision does not state that a town cannot pay more if they so choose. This would change the amount from $9,200+- to $13,000+-. Should VALA support changing the Block Grant to the average yearly spending level?
Raise the Income Sensitivity base 1.8% back to 2%
The Income Sensitivity base was lowered from its original 2% base to 1.8% when the tax rates were increasing due to the high inflationary market that the State was experiencing in the mid-2000s. The State has been experiencing a declining market over the last 6 years. Attempts have been made to bring this base back to 2%. Should VALA support raising the income sensitivity base to the 2% rate?
Raise the Income Sensitivity Level to $125,000
The income Sensitivity Level is still at $90,000, but has been raised to $96,000 (perhaps now $104,000). The levels under $90,000 are at 1.8% with no progression; whereas, the levels over $90,000 has been minimized and is progressive.
Should VALA support raising the Income Sensitivity Level to $125,000, but provide for a progression raise for the amounts over $50,000 to $125,000?
Should VALA support having a cap for reappraisal for towns assessing over 110%?
Should VALA support moving the date of the PVR Annual Report being done to February 15?
Should VALA support moving the date of the Tax Commissioner’s recommended ED TR to March 1?
Should VALA support having the date of the education budgets voted on the 1st Tuesday of May?
Should VALA support eliminating the Income Sensitivity payments to renters?
Open Discussion and Motions:
- Tom Vickery asked the question “Should VALA be involved or not?” Should tax rate be simplified to one tax rate and be more transparent? Residents still will need to file their homestead because of income sensitivity. Change would not change formula and would not change business tax rates, etc. Change would not impact what Listers do.
- Lister Louise Ferris-Burt stated tax rates between residential and non-residential in Bethel are not that far apart. One tax rate would eliminate people who don’t file homesteads if it is in their favor.
- President John Fike stated state is looking to shift to income tax base. Business taxed at non-residential rate. Property tax is still subject to school tax.
- Tom Vickery stated voters ok if block grants increase spending in local tax and not state tax. If costs are above state average then increase voted by residents will increase local tax rate and not state tax rate. Galen Mudget from town of Sharon stated block grants have nothing to do with Listers.
- President John Fike stated “What is Lister responsibility?” Objectives by association — need to be careful organization is not micro managing. It’s a fine line on where VALA will go.
- Lister Louise Ferris-Burt made 1st motion for VALA to consider concept of a single tax rate and Jim Judd 2nd the motion. Concept is part of “Big” picture.
- Steve Jeffrey cautioned that the Legislature has selective hearing.
- President John Fike asked should VALA support the concept of a block grant that is more representative of the average cost of education in the State of Vermont.
- Chris Miele from NEMRC stated that Listers need to be involved. If you as VALA give up your right, then you give that right to the Legislature. It is important that VALA is part of discussions.
- Lister Carol Hammond stated that assessment and tax are tied together and for all being involved. If in conflict of By-Laws then it should be changed.
- Tom Vickery stated income sensitivity fluctuating because of tax policy. 1.8% back to 2%.
- Motion was made and 2nd to endorse favoring the concept of raising the income sensitivity base. Additionally motion made to support progression rate of $50,000 to $125,000 by Mike Hardy and 2nd motion made by Paul Noble both from Bellows Falls/Rockingham.
- Question: Should VALA support having a cap for Reappraisal assessing over 110%. 1st motion made by Phyllis Scribner from the town of Manchester and 2nd motion made by Gussie Grave from the town of Fayston.
- President John Fike noted that towns don’t have to do a complete reappraisal but should be looking at categories and should stay on top of Grand List.
Ed Clodfelter from NEMRC motioned for adjournment and Louise Ferris-Burt from Bethel 2nd that motion. Meeting was adjourned at 12:10pm.
Minutes respectfully submitted by, Penny Allyn
Members in attendance were:
Galen E. Mudget Jr.- Sharon
Louise Ferris-Burt- Bethel
Traci Paquettte -Colchester
Robert Vickery -Colchester
Dan Ruddell -Tunbridge
Elizabeth (Betsy) Sponable -Tunbridge
Linda Perkins-St. Johnsbury
Walter Hastings -Royalton
Ben Saunders -NEMRC
Cy Bailey -Hartland/Springfield
Randy Viens -Essex
Tom Vickery -Waterbury
John Fike -Reading