1. BCA may increase or decrease appraised value on appeal. As
tax appeal time nears, remember that on appeals from the listers’
decision to the Board of Civil Authority, the BCA may increase,
decrease or sustain the appraisal. 32 V.S.A. §4409. Once the taxpayer
raises the issue of the property’s valuation, the BCA must make
findings to support what the BCA believes to be the correct valuation
of the property, even if that is an increase. The same is true for
further appeals to the State Board of Appraisers or the Superior
2. Winning taxpayer gets credit toward future tax liability. If
a taxpayer succeeds on appeal, and it is determined that he has been
overassessed, then he or she is entitled to a credit from the
municipality, and if the municipality has voted to collect interest on
delinquent taxes, then the taxpayer must be given interest at the same
rate. 32 V.S.A. §4469, §5136. A municipality can choose to pay
the taxpayer in a lump sum, but the statute only mandates a credit.
3. Three BCA members are quorum for tax appeals. A quorum of
the board of civil authority (BCA) as well as the number needed to
make a decision (or take action) is set by specific authority in 24
V.S.A. § 801 where it states that "the act of a majority of the board
present at the meeting shall be treated as the act of the board…"
(except in election issues when 17 V.S.A. § 2103 controls). This means
that any number of board members who attend a duly warned meeting for
a tax appeal can take action and make a decision. Note however that
this number can never be less than three, as three BCA members are
needed for the inspection committee.
4. BCA members who appeal are disqualified from deciding tax
appeals. Board of civil authority (BCA) members who appeal their
taxes or who have any interest in property under appeal are prohibited
from serving on the board for tax appeal purposes during the year the
property is under appeal. 32 V.S.A. § 4404(d). BCA members who have
grieved to the listers and decided not to appeal may consider tax
appeals. If a BCA member is an attorney and represents a person who is
appealing their taxes, that member is similarly disqualified, as is
the town agent, who might also be a board member in some
5. A Lister can be a Justice of the Peace, but lister/Justice of
the Peace cannot participate in tax appeal hearings. Many small
towns have difficulty finding different people to serve in various
offices. It is legally permissible (i.e., there is no statutory
conflict or prohibition) for a person to be elected as a lister and as
a Justice of the Peace. The Lister can take an active role in election
duties, except when the person is in a contested race for his Lister
office. However, the lister cannot sit on the BCA for the purposes of
tax appeals because the appeal is from the lister’s determination of
value. While the law does not address the situation in which a lister
appeals, it is best practice for the listers to limit his or her
appeal appearance during the year to his or her own appeal (sitting as
appellant) to avoid any appearance of inconsistent interests.
6. BCA members must step down from any appeal that involves a
relative. The law requires a board of civil authority member to
not participate in an appeal that involves a relative by blood or
marriage, who is a first cousin, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, parent,
grandparent, or sibling. 12 V.S.A. § 61. In addition, BCA
members should avoid the appearance of a conflict by stepping aside
when former business partners, friends or enemies appeal their taxes,
as well as in any situation in which the member might not be able to
render a decision squarely on the evidence and the merits, leaving all
personal considerations aside.
7. The time for dog licensing and tags is here. Just a brief
reminder that the dog must wear the "license" tag required by the
Vermont Statutes. This tag is sufficient proof that the dog has been
vaccinated for rabies. An additional "rabies" tag is not required. 20
8. Dog who moves within state does not have to be relicensed. A
dog license obtained from a Vermont clerk is valid in any part of the
state. The license may be transferred to the new town, provided it is
where the dog or wolf-hybrid is kept. The clerk of the new town
must record the license when he or she is presented with a
valid license that had been issued by another town clerk.
20 V.S.A. § 3591
9. Election of Officers May Not Be Reconsidered. While 17 V.S.A.
§2661 provides a method for reconsideration of public questions, and
budgets, the election of officers cannot be reconsidered by filing a
petition with the legislative body. The only way to challenge
or contest an election of an officer is by filing a petition with the
appropriate Superior Court. 17 V.S.A. §2603. The statute sets out that
you must allege either errors sufficient to change the outcome of the
election, fraud in the process sufficient to change the result, or
that for any other reason, the election is not valid.
10. The legislative body must call a special meeting within 60 days
of the submission of petitions to reconsider that are properly filed.
17 V.S.A. §2661. We hope that town, school, and union
school officials will all coordinate the setting of special meeting
dates to minimize voter confusion.
11. Clerks should send absentee ballots for reconsideration vote to
those who received them for the initial vote. Although the law
does not speak directly to requesting absentee ballots for
reconsideration of an article by Australian ballot, we suggest that
fairness dictates that the Town Clerk send absentee ballots for the
reconsideration to all voters who had requested absentee ballots for
Town Meeting. Reconsideration is really an extension of that Town
meeting and we believe that absent voters should continue to
12. A person must be a United States citizen, in order to register
to vote and be added to a checklist in Vermont. 24 V.S.A. §2121.
It is not enough that Canadian or any other foreign citizens own
property in town, or pay taxes, or have applied for U.S. citizenship.
U.S. citizenship must have been granted, before a person is eligible
to vote. Similarly, having lived in town most of my life is not enough
to create citizenship. Having a "green card" does not mean that the
person is a citizen. Our application for the checklist contains a box
that must be checked by the voter to affirm that he or she is a
13. Deliberative session is exempt from the Open Meeting Law.
Deliberative sessions are totally exempt from the Open Meeting Law so
that a board does not have to warn the session, and the decision of
the board does not need to be adopted in open session so long as the
decision is in writing and is a public record. 1 V.S.A. 312(f). A
deliberative session can be used by a board at the end of a
quasi-judicial proceeding to discuss the merits of the application,
weigh the evidence, and arrive at points that the board wants to
address in its written decision. 1 V.S.A.§312(e). Applications
for site plan approval (planning commission or development review
board), requests for variances (zoning board of adjustment or
development review board), and requests for a curb cut or driveway
permit (selectboard) are examples of quasi-judicial hearings. On the
other hand, a planning commission hearing on adoption of a zoning
by-law or work sessions to draft revisions to the zoning bylaw or an
ordinance are a legislative type of proceedings and deliberative
sessions cannot be used.
14. Adjourned meeting can only discuss articles warned for the
original meeting. If an annual meeting is adjourned to a
date certain to continue the meeting, the adjourned session can only
include completion of voting and discussion of articles which were in
the original warning. New articles cannot be added during the recess.
The adjourned session is a continuation of the original meeting. If
the deadline for posting of the warning has passed, and your board has
thought of another article to be voted, the town will need to either
warn a special meeting or save it for next year.
15. Same sex couples cannot be given marriage licenses. Under
Vermont law same sex couples may enter into civil unions. A couple can
only be given a marriage license, and the solemnization/legalization
of the marriage will only be valid if it involves a man and a woman.
18 V.S.A. §1203, 5163.
16. A person cannot be made a Justice-For-A-Day to perform a
wedding or civil union ceremony. In Vermont only judges, justices
of the peace and members of the clergy may solemnize marriages or
civil unions. Unlike some of our neighbors there is no provision in
Vermont law to permit a person to become a justice of the peace for a
day in order to solemnize a particular marriage or civil union.
Justices of the Peace are either elected in a town, or appointed by
the governor to fill a vacancy. 18 V.S.A. §5164.
17. Legislative body or manager hires police chief. Vermont law
gives the power to establish a police department and hire the chief of
police to the legislative body or town manager (in towns that have a
town manager). Because the law specifically gives this authority to
the selectboard or manager we do not believe that a court would permit
voters to petition to have a vote on the matter. 24 V.S.A. § 1931.
The board or manager can create a hiring committee to review
applications, conduct interviews and make a recommendation, but it is
not required to do this.
18. The police chief directs and controls the police force. The
law specifically grants the police chief the authority to direct and
control the police force for the town. This means that the selectboard
and manager, who generally oversee the personnel of the town do not
have direct control over these employees. 24 V.S.A.
19. With permission, the board chair can sign on behalf of the
board. Title 1 section 172 provides that, "when joint authority is
given to three or more, the concurrence of a majority of such number
shall be sufficient and shall be required in its exercise." This means
that a single board member has no independent authority to act. That
being said, the law permits the chair or vice chair, with the board’s
permission, to sign on behalf of the board any decision or order
issued by it. 24 V.S.A. §1141.
20. Local officials may work without pay. Except when
compensation is set by law (as in the clerk, treasurer and delinquent
tax collector), a local official may not make a claim for compensation
for personal services to the town. 24 V.S.A. §931. This means that,
despite the Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws that require the
payment of a minimum wage for work done, local officials are presumed
to be volunteers unless the law specifically provides, the selectboard
sets compensation, or the town votes otherwise.