Property Reassessments Overdue / Council Considers Charter Amendment

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Thursday July 14, 2011

South Burlington is at odds with the city charter, Assistant City Manager Bob Rusten told members of the City Council and the public at a July 6 meeting. According to the charter, the city must reassess property values every three years. The last appraisal was in 2006.

“Unless something changes, we have to do a reappraisal for next year,” he said. “There’s not a significant amount of money to help pay for that.”

The city’s fiscal year 2012 budget tallies $70,000 in reassessment funds from the state. Under Act 60, each community receives an annual, state pay-out tied to the number of properties within that community—around $8.50 per parcel—which is earmarked for reappraisal, explained Rusten. Despite those annual subsidies, South Burlington’s coffers are depleted from the 2006 reappraisal, which cost around $400,000. The city finished paying for that 2006 reappraisal last year.

Addressing the City Council, Rusten explained that although South Burlington’s charter requires triennial reappraisals, there’s nothing in the state statutes that mandates the city do a reappraisal this year.

Rusten and City Manager Sandy Miller recommended that the City Council ask the Charter Committee to consider a revision of the city charter, adopting the state mechanisms rather than the current triennial reappraisal.

Rather than tying reappraisals to a fixed timeline, the state of Vermont uses two triggers: the first is called C.L.A., or common level of appraisal, which mandates that a community reassess if the ratio of assessed value to sale price dips below 80%. The second is called C.O.D. or coefficient of dispersion, which keeps property taxes fairly distributed among towns. A reassessment is triggered if the C.O.D. climbs above 120%, meaning that a significant number of taxpayers would be paying an unfair share, according to the state’s formula.

South Burlington’s common level is 96.23%, and its C.O.D. is 106.75%, both well within the acceptable range under state statutes. If the charter is amended to reflect state statutes, South Burlington would not have to finance a reappraisal this year.

The Council approved, sending the recommendation to the Charter Committee. For South Burlington to amend the charter, the proposal will first go before the city for a vote, and then must receive approval from the Vermont Legislature.

SOURCE: Eric Blokland, Correspondent