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Residents ask select board for more data on 2006 townwide reappraisal

07/19/2007

By Lisa Loomis

Residents who have concerns about the accuracy of Waitsfield's 2006 town wide reappraisal will appear before the Waitsfield Select Board on July 23 to voice their concerns.

The board has also received a letter from town resident Jim Tabor asking that the town consider an audit of the accuracy of the appraisal. The issue will be discussed as part of the public forum portion of the board's regular meeting.

How the town makes the component parts of each taxpayer's appraisal was discussed by the public and the board at a July 9 meeting. Some of those same taxpayers now want to know about the overall accuracy of the appraisal and are investigating with the Vermont secretary of state's office, how they go about requesting a review.

FIFTY APPEALS

Waitsfield completed its townwide reappraisal last year. There were 50 appeals of the new valuations, eight of which went to the Vermont state appraiser's office for adjudication and several which are in Vermont Superior Court and one which is in the Vermont Supreme Court.

Some town residents, including Tabor, feel there were too many mistakes made in the reappraisal process and want to have it independently reviewed. They are concerned about the legal costs of defending the new valuations as well as the potential errors in their own tax bills and in their own appeals.

TABOR LETTER

"Thank you for questioning Board of Listers Chair John Riley and Contract Assessor Spencer Potter during your July 9 meeting. Charlie Hosford was right to ask them directly about the $200,000-plus 'mistake' they have admitted making, on the record. However, their answer -- 'Uhm, we don't know how it happened' -- was less than encouraging. The next logical question (and one the Select Board should have asked) is: how many other such mistakes were made? If Mr. Riley and Mr. Potter really don't know how a $200,000-plus mistake was made (a frightening possibility) it seems unlikely that they would know how many other mistakes were made. Nor, most likely, would they be anxious to conduct research which could reveal other mistakes. Which brings me back to my original suggestion, that an independent audit is necessary and appropriate. I would urge you to discuss this matter seriously as an agenda item at your next meeting," Tabor wrote in his letter.

FAIR MARKET VALUE
 
The reappraisal was done by Vermont Municipal Assessors, a Waitsfield-based company owned by Spencer and Mary Jane Potter. By law, Vermont town's must keep their common level of appraisal (CLA) above 80 percent of fair market value. The CLA is used by the state to calculate a town's statewide property tax rate.

Waitsfield, over the course of several years, set aside $80,000 for the reappraisal, which Vermont Municipal Assessors worked on in 2005 and 2006. The town also pays a flat monthly fee of $900 for maintaining and updating lister cards.

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