Weston board considers reappraisal, tables municipal tax-rate decision

By Shawn Cunningham
© Telegraph Publishing LLC

Telegraph Photo by Jasmin Gomez

Last Tuesday evening, the Weston Select Board heard from Listers Greg Carroll and Dan Hanenberg who suggested that the town might want to consider a reappraisal of properties for the grand list.

Noting that last appraisal was in 2005 and that the “cost table” and “land value schedules” that appraisals are based on is 15-years-old, Carroll and Hannenberg called the property values in Weston “stale,” and pointed to the difference between the assessed values of properties that have changed hands recently and prices they sold for.

They pointed to “arms length” sales of more than $21 million from mid-2018 to mid-2021 saying that those properties were only assessed at $18 million. Carroll explained that open land is selling for “radically” more than it’s assessed and that these differences affect two numbers known as the CLA and the COD.

The CLA – or Common Level of Assessment – looks at sales vs. assessment for a formula for the state to determine education taxes. A CLA of “1” means sales prices and assessments are the same. If prices are above assessments, the number will be less than one and prices below assessments will make the CLA more than one. The former generates higher education tax rates in the state’s funding formula while the latter lowers the education tax rate.

The COD – or Coefficient of Dispersion – looks at how fairly the burden of taxes is distributed among properties in a town. If the CLA is below .85 or above 1.15  or the COD is more than 20 percent, the state will mandate a reappraisal. In 2020 the Weston’s CLA was .9686, which is well within the accepted range while the COD was approaching the 20 percent limit at .1748.

Carroll and Hanenberg told the board that due in part to the Covid pandemic, most appraisal companies have a three-year lead time on work, but that Russ Beaudoin – who the town has worked with in the past – said he could get started on a reappraisal this fall, charging $100 per property for the town’s 700 properties or $70,000.

Board chair Denis Benson suggested that the increases in sales prices were part of a Covid-related “bubble” and cautioned against doing the reappraisal now. Benson envisioned property owners being upset that their property was worth more and protesting the results.

The board had a number of questions including how much Beaudoin would participate in the work of hearing grievances and the use of Proval as the town’s assessment software.  Board members invited the listers to attend their next meeting to address the questions.

Tax rate tabled

The board tabled a discussion of setting the municipal tax rate over a question of the funding of a culvert repair on Trout Club Road. Town Clerk Kim Seymour was asked to do some research and the board will take up the question again on July 27. The education tax rate received from the state of Vermont will be $1.6063 per $100 of assessed value for those taxpayers filing a homestead declaration and $1.6643 for non-homestead and commercial properties. The municipal tax rate will be added to the education number on tax bills. Taxes are due by 5 p.m. on Tuesday Oct.  5.

Speed sign letter revised, approved

Board member Jim Linville presented the letter that was proposed to go to residents asking for their thoughts on placing radar speed signs on Route 100 approaching the village from the north and south.

Benson said that VTrans had said that the town is at the limit of the number of signs it can have on that state highway. Linville agreed and suggested replacing some of the current signs with the radar speed signs while Benson asked if it would be good to wait to send the letter until VTrans gets back to the town about replacing signs.

Members made several suggestions for changes and unanimously approved sending the letter (and a survey and speed information) with tax bills.

Executive session yields raises for workers

After a nearly one-hourlong executive session, the board returned to a public session that was not recorded by GNAT-TV. According to the minutes of the meeting, Linville moved to increase Roads Foreman Almon Crandall’s hourly wage to $30 per hour and the rest of the road crew to $25 per hour. In addition, crew members Brian Hart and Hugh Hart will receive one more week of vacation to be taken during the summer. The board voted unanimously in favor.

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