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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.478

Introduced by Representatives Clarkson of Woodstock, Branagan of Georgia, Deen of Westminster, Dostis of Waterbury, Gervais of Enosburg, Hosford of Waitsfield, Jewett of Ripton, Masland of Thetford, McCullough of Williston, Minter of Waterbury, Smith of Morristown, Winters of Williamstown and Zuckerman of Burlington

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Taxation and finance; property tax; agricultural and forest lands

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to authorize the legislative council to hire a consultant to undertake a comprehensive review of and prepare a report on the use value appraisal program.  The use value appraisal task force is established to review the report and prepare recommendations for the general assembly, including any proposals for legislation.

AN ACT RELATING TO USE VALUE APPRAISAL

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS

The general assembly finds:

(1)  Vermont’s use value appraisal program (UVA), in statute at

32 V.S.A. § 3751, commonly referred to as current use, was established by the Vermont legislature 30 years ago.

(2)  The UVA program was established for multiple purposes, including maintaining and conserving Vermont’s productive agricultural and forest land; protecting Vermont’s natural ecological systems; preventing the accelerated conversion of these lands to more intensive use by the pressure of property taxation; achieving more equitable taxation for undeveloped lands; preserving and enhancing Vermont’s scenic natural resources; and enabling the citizens of Vermont to plan for orderly growth in the face of increasing development pressures.

(3)  The purposes of the UVA program still remain important goals for the citizens of Vermont 30 years after being enacted.

(4)  An independent study of the UVA program should be conducted to understand how effective the program is in meeting the established purposes of the act.

(5)  There is need to better understand whether property taxation and increasing development pressures are accelerating the conversion of productive agricultural and forest land and natural ecological systems to more intensive use.

(6)  In 1983, 19,000 people owned forest parcels 1–9 acres in size, but by 1993, this had grown to 40,900 people, indicating an increased parcelization of the landscape.

(7)  The U.S. Forest Service estimates that by 2030, housing densities are projected to experience medium to high change (increases of five to 40 percent) across a majority of Vermont’s watersheds, with the highest projected density development expected to occur along the Connecticut River.

(8)  There is a need to understand how the UVA program could be more effective in preventing the conversion of productive agricultural and forest land and natural ecological systems to more intensive use.

(9)  Based on the success of the program to date, there is a need to study whether current staffing is adequate to meet the demands of the program, and what improvements would need to be made to improve the overall effectiveness and rate of enrollment in the program.

(10)  Withdrawal from the program is occurring at an increasing rate in recent time.  There is a need to understand why this is happening and how the program could be more effective in encouraging long-term or permanent enrollment to meet the purposes of the act.


Sec. 2.  INDEPENDENT STUDY OF USE VALUE APPRAISAL

              PROGRAM

(a)  Appropriation and duties and powers.  The sum of $50,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund in fiscal year 2008 to the legislative council to hire one or more consultants to conduct a thorough and independent review and analysis of the use value appraisal program.  The consultants shall have the assistance of the joint fiscal office and may consult with stakeholders and interested parties to gather data and information for the study.

(b)  Goals; issues.  The study shall answer whether the administration of the program is achieving the goals of the program to conserve Vermont’s productive agricultural and forest land; protect Vermont’s natural ecological systems; prevent the accelerated conversion of these lands to more intensive use by the pressure of property taxation; achieve more equitable taxation for undeveloped lands; preserve and enhance Vermont’s scenic natural resources; and enable the citizens of Vermont to plan for orderly growth in the face of increasing development pressures.  The study shall also identify modifications or improvements to the program that would better achieve the goals of the program.  Among the questions the consultants shall investigate: 

(1)  How well has the current use program achieved its principal goals?  Where has the program worked well?  What needs improvement?

(2)  Is there sufficient capacity to administer the program adequately within the department of taxes and the department of forest, parks and recreation?  Is the monitoring of parcels manageable, and are the county foresters able to supervise and provide sufficient technical assistance?  What can be done to increase the administrative capacity of the program and what options are available for funding additional capacity?

(3)  How is the program working for listers and what improvements, if any, would local officials like to see in the program?  Can the state make better use of technology to reduce the administrative burden on local listers, allow landowners and consulting foresters to file documents and reports electronically, and improve the equity of the monitoring of and compliance with the program?

(4)  Does the land use change tax provide an adequate disincentive for temporary enrollment of land, especially where the landowner intends to develop in the future?  Should the land use change tax be changed in any manner?

(5)  Should annual reporting by landowners enrolled in the forest land category be reinstated?

(6)  How can general enrollment in the program be improved? How are “use values” determined?  Should there be different categories of “use value” based upon parcel size, public access, conservation easements, protection of natural ecological systems, or other criteria, and would this help improve the overall effectiveness and rate of enrollment in the program?

(7)  Does the administration of the program effectively meet its stated goal of protecting natural ecological systems on enrolled forestland (wetlands, riparian areas, rare forest conditions, etc.) and, if not, what changes would help?

(8)  Should the residency of the landowner be a requirement of enrollment, or should the use of the land be paramount?

(c)  The consultant shall report to legislative council and the use value appraisal task force on its findings on or before October 1, 2007.

Sec. 3.  USE VALUE APPRAISAL TASK FORCE

(a)  Membership.  The use value appraisal task force is created to consist of two members of the house of representatives; two members of the senate; the director of the division of property valuation and review or designee; the commissioner of the department of forests, parks and recreation or designee; the secretary of agriculture, food and markets or designee; a member representing forestry interests; a member representing agricultural interests; a member representing land-use or conservation interests; a member representing professional assessors and listers; a member representing fish and wildlife interests; and a forestland or agricultural land owner, or both.  The speaker of the house and the senate president pro tempore shall appoint members of the use value appraisal task force that are not members exofficio.

(b)  Powers and duties.  The use value appraisal task force shall conduct a thorough review of the independent study, determine whether the program needs to be modified to better accomplish the goals or whether the goals need to be modified, and provide the house committees on agriculture, natural resources and energy, and ways and means, and the senate committees on agriculture, natural resources and energy, and finance with a copy of the study, a report of task force recommendations, and legislative proposals on or before December 15, 2007.

(c)  The task force may conduct public hearings on the independent study in various locations throughout the state.  In doing this work, the goal shall be to collaborate with as many of the stakeholders and interested parties as possible, including the Vermont use value appraisal coalition, the Vermont league of cities and towns, the Vermont assessors and listers association, county foresters, consulting foresters, the Vermont land trust, Vermont association of snow travelers, the Vermont farm bureau, the Vermont housing and  conservation board, the Vermont natural resources council, Rural Vermont, and any other organizations or individuals concerned about land use and the use value appraisal program.


Sec. 4.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on passage.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us