GENERAL MEETING MINUTES
MARCH 4TH, 2015
President John Fike distributed article entitled “Changes to Current Use” by John Herrick (VT Digger) and also VALA House Ways & Means Proposal . He then went on to say there were many things happening in VALA and the Vermont Legislature with subsidized housing, solar, CU, and Miscellaneous Tax Bill, the future direction of VALA and VALA’s Mission Statement.
VLCT Steve Jeffries spoke of changes happening in legislation and CU that included the following:
- Currently a parcel owner pays 10% of the fair market value on the portion of land taken out of the CU Program that is sold for development. If a portion of the land is sold (and not the entire portion enrolled in CU) then the tax is pro-rated on just the portion of land removed.
- The new proposal would require an appraisal to assess full market value (which would increase amount owner pays to the state for removal from the program).
- A portion of the increase would go to municipalities to pay for the town Listers’ assessments.
- There would be a three month “easy out” with no additional penalties for current owners who choose to withdraw from the program.
- As a result of these changes Vermont might see a rush of properties withdrawn this summer.
- If given final approval in the House this bill would then move to the Senate. If passed it would become effective July 1st.
- There was an error in the assessment date (VALA testified) in the last draft of the CU Education Fund Bill. The Bill has since been reduced to a study.
- No new changes for Listers or Assessors at this time.
- Looking at ways to reduce education costs by consolidation of school districts into minimum of 1100 students with pre-K requirement. If school spending is 2% over last year then school budget will be deemed to have failed.
- Discussed Vermont Delinquent Tax Payers List that was recently distributed. Proposed a list of properties that are delinquent on taxes and not owners (because of issue with owner of record and who is actually responsible for delinquent taxes).
- July 10th is the retirement date for VLCT Steve Jeffries. Next Thursday deadline to recommend replacement finalist.
- Asked everyone to check to make sure they are getting the electronic version of the VLCT Report that is being sent out.
- State is still at work on whether or not to reimburse towns for court costs.
President John Fike stated that Jim Knapp from PVR was unable to attend the VALA Meeting.
Legislative Committee member Randy Viens stated that VALA testified on behave of timing error in the proposed Education Fund Bill (Incorrect April 15th date changed to April 1st date). This is a good example of how wrong terminology or dates can change a Bill. VALA has been following work on the CU Bill. Tom Vickery advocated “keeping it simple” and use a 10% penalty rather than the previous tiered penalty.
President John Fike stated also trying to get the use value increased every year. Fair market value shifting burden over to CU enrollee.
Legislative Committee member Tom Vickery reported that Fish and Game is looking at those enrolled in CU who post their land would pay a higher amount.
VLCT Steve Jeffries also brought up the following:
- Closing budget gap.
- PV&R reappraisal of large parcels and ski areas.
- Shifting more onto CU enrollees rather than under fund the program.
- ANR lands in favor of full reimbursement and capped value. Look to stay with capped value from previous year.
- Pious and Charitable is a morass. New bill intro in order to be exempt town has to put in a rate.
Legislative Committee Member Randy Viens stated if a portion of land is taken out of CU, the land schedule should be used to determine value. There will be a 30 day delay to provide values. If owner grieves the Lister should go through the normal grievance process.
Legislative Committee Member Tom Vickery discussed the following:
- Of great concern is the fairness and equity for all taxpayers. Should change the Income Sensitivity part of the formula from a regressive to a progressive formula by removing the “Cliff” for incomes over $50,000. A lot of research was done on this back in 2006. “Cliff” is a major flaw of the funding formula. Correcting this would not change any other aspect of the formula and possibly help to lower the education tax fund deficit.
- As much as $50,000,000 or more in rebate savings could be achieved by removing this “Cliff”. Savings could be used to make formula more fair and equitable for the property tax payer. It would also make them more responsible when voting their school budgets.
- Recommending going back to 2% income adjustment level.
- Recommending only one education tax rate.
- Question of where is VALA going? What is VALA’s job? Is it to educate the public?
- Talked to House Ways and Means about this proposal.
President John Fike about how do we as Listers deal with the tax side of Subsidized Housing.
Vice President Todd LeBlanc spoke of the following:
- How VALA has gone round and round in Ways and Means regarding the Housing Trust.
- Definitely differentiate whether talking on VALA’s behalf of talking on behalf of his town.
- Suggested a covenant affects the value of the property.
- There is a list by town of those properties in the Housing Trust.
- “Owner-occupied housing that is subject to a house subsidy covenant as defined in 27V.S.A. § 610, imposed by a governmental, quasi-governmental, or public purpose entity, that limits the price for which the property may be sold, the housing subsidy covenant shall be deemed to cause a material decrease in the value of the owner-occupied housing, and the appraisal value means not less than 60 and not more than 70% of what the fair market value of the property would be if it were not subject to the house subsidy covenant. Every five years, starting in 2019, the Commissioner of Taxes, in consultation with the Vermont Housing Conservation Board, shall report to the General Assembly on whether the percentage of appraised value used in this subdivision should be altered, and the reasons for his or her determination”.
- Listed value shall be an amount equal to 100% of the appraisal value. The ratio shall be the same for both real and personal property.
- Grants are recorded in the mortgage. When sold the owner has to give the entire grant back (70% gained) at the closing.
- Process comes down to when selling property out of the land trust, obtain a fee appraisal and then remove the grant. This limits how much equity the owner can keep. Covenant limits how much property can be sold. You can see two transfers on the same property on the same day.
- NEMRC Senior Appraiser Ed Clodfelter recommended that from a NEMRC aspect to look at it as a contract not a change in listed value.
- Question: Should VALA be involved? What was Legislative intent? What do we think of this as an organization?
- In some condo complexes when condo taken out of program they are selling at fair market value.
- Legislative Committee Member Randy Viens said where you put the value is a question. There are two tax bills that are generated. Trust receives the land tax bill and the owner receives the building tax bill. Rockingham and Essex went to court to educate the legislature. Recommend using Supreme Court decision on April 1st. Should VALA take a stand? PVR wants to do it in Contract in NEMRC.
- Vice President Todd LeBlanc and Randy Viens talked to Jim Knapp PVR about taking a position on this issue. VALA to take a position as well.
Legislative Committee Member Randy Viens spoke of solar on the following:
- Carol Hammond from Vernon encountered a problem with the solar program. Working on issues presently. If you have a problem you have to register first. May need to back out and start over.
- Some things still need to be addressed with the PVR web site. Unsure why it works for some and not others.
- Large solar arrays are for “public good”. CPG’s should go to the zoning boards. Tried to have the CPG’s sent to Listers but they thought it would too hard.
- Problem exists that land owners may not own the solar arrays.
- Go to Public Service Board for a list. Typically 50K or under is not taxable.
- Possibility of date changed from April 1st to January 1st for assessment purposes. Does VALA want to take a stand on this issue? State will study for another year however it would help with CU when still valuing properties. If date changed appeals would be earlier.
- Noelle Walker from Fairlee stated out of state owners do not come up in the winter to grieve. However it was noted that a lot of out of state owners are not here in April during inspection times. How would Listers go to inspect if grievance is in the winter? Randy Viens will be on a committee to research further.
President John Fike discussed the following:
- Non-profit organizations and how to stay relevant. VALA’s Mission Statement and how issues and dynamics shape an organization. VALA is getting involved in issues other than assessment. The job as President is to respond to the needs of its members.
- Vice President Todd LeBlanc stated VALA needs to stick to the goal of assessment. VALA has gained a lot of respect because of this. Do we want VALA to be lobbyists for taxation? Education needs to be expanding to standards of assessment and taxation. Todd’s personal opinion was to stay with assessment. Stated he has no problem giving advice but taking a position may decrease VALA’s value. Felt VALA had a fine line to walk however things that come up that affect members than absolutely VALA should be involved. Doesn’t want VALA’s reputation tarnished.
- Gussie Graves from Fayston expressed that she thought legislature would like VALA’s input.
- Lisa Truchon from Lincoln felt that Listers want to be tax activist. VALA has bigger issues such as minimum standards of assessment.
- Paul Noble from Rockingham felt the conversation was taking a different spin than earlier. Felt essentially that Listers main focus was to value the Grand List and ensure it is equitable. If there are policies that affect the value of the Grand List that we advise rather than tell Legislature what to do would be acceptable.
- Legislative Committee Member Randy Viens stated should we look at taxation and assessment? Example would be changing two tax rates to one tax rate.
- Louise Ferris-Burt from Bethel stated that VALA needs to be careful not to become lobbyist. Should be advocates not lobbyist.
- Legislative Committee Member John Vickery stated that VALA needs to be aware of unintended consequences because of bureaucratic issues. VALA’s job is to explain not tell Legislature what to do. VALA’s invitation to speak shows a level of trust and credibility. Need to keep focus on assessment.
- President John Fike stated lines can sometimes be blurred. Hope that by the Annual Meeting to have it all together with a long term strategy. Taxation issues come up all the time. Used to grieve values not it’s more about taxation.
- Louise Ferris-Burt from Bethel suggested last line of Mission Statement indicate fairness and equitability as it affects taxation. Provide…Legislature, as it affects fairness and equity of tax policy in the implementation of assessing and the production of the grand list.
- Tom Marrone from Plymouth stated the tax climate has changed so much since Act 60. It can be a slippery slope and we do not always anticipate consequences. People who give information to Legislature have never sat in a Listers Office.
- Camilla Roberts from Rockingham asked does letter to House & Means proposal change intention of taxation or changes implementation of taxation? If in our experience (even tax policy) changes our intent than we need to get involved.
- President John Fike stated the verbiage was better defined and helped promote a good discussion today.
NEMRC Senior Appraiser ED Clodfelter announced the NE Regional IAAO Conference to be held on September 13, 2015. See NEMRC website for upcoming classes/webinars and IAAO website for more information pertaining to NE Regional IAAO Conference.
Vice President Todd LeBlanc announced Attorney Jim Barlow will be running for Steve Jeffries position at VLCT upon his retirement. VALA will not endorse a candidate but members can do so individually if they choose.
VALA Annual Meeting to be held at Lake Morey this coming September and Noelle Walker from Fairlee will be handling all the arrangements.
Paul Noble from Rockingham motioned to adjourn the General Meeting at 12:10pm and Joyce Scribner seconded the motion.
Meeting Minutes respectfully submitted by, Penny Allyn
Members present at the General Meeting are as follows: Pauline Moore – Manchester John Vickery – Burlington Charlie Mason – Pawlet Linda Perkins – St. Johnsbury Bruce Shields – Eden Galen Mudgett Jr. – Sharon Joyce Scribner – Manchester Randy Viens – Essex Gussie Graves – Fayston Cheryl Tudhope – Orwell Jean Audet – Orwell Louise Ferris-Burt – Bethel Camilla Roberts – Rockingham Mike Harty – Rockingham Paul Noble – Rockingham Robert Vickery – Colchester Walter Hastings – Royalton Lisa Truchon – Lincoln Robin Chapman – Fairfax Sandra Clark – Londonderry Ed Luce – Randolph Phyllis Hayward – Chelsea Michelle Pingree – Plymouth Janice Ohlsson – Calais Ed Clodfelter – NEMRC Tom Vickery – Waterbury Noel Walker – Fairlee Russ Collins – Fairlee Jim Gray – Bethel Tom Marrone – Plymouth Terry Thayne – Ludlow Pat French – Randolph Todd LeBlanc – S. Burlington John Fike – Reading Penny Allyn – Reading