South Burlington city councilors met

South Burlington city councilors met, mask-less and in person, for the first time in over a year on Monday night.

For the first time in over a year, all five South Burlington city councilors sat around a conference table at city hall for their regular Monday meeting.

Aside from the nervous buzz in the room and an enormous screen broadcasting the faces of virtual participants, it almost looked like a meeting from the before times. It even included the pledge of allegiance, a ritual left behind during the last year’s virtual meetings. Council chair Helen Riehle laughed in a fluster after accidentally skipping it and having to start the meeting over again.

Despite a few microphone snafus, the hybrid virtual and in-person model allowed attendees to participate smoothly, many tuning in to hear an update on the city-wide property reappraisal.

Reappraisal values live

Updated values for residential and condo properties went live June 4, but commercial values will not yet be ready and available for property owners until June 16, according to director of tax collection and assessment Martha Lyons.

The deadline for property-owners to file a grievance and request a hearing is June 18 at 4:30 p.m., and Lyons said there will be no exceptions. She expects hearings for residential and condo properties to finish up around July 2 but noted that it all depends on how many people file grievances. The state education and municipal tax rates cannot be set until all hearings — for residential, condo and commercial properties — are complete.

If property-owners cannot schedule a grievance in time for whatever reason, said Lyons, the only other outlet they have is through the board of civil authority, but that will not impact the tax rate.

City manager Kevin Dorn noted that the delay in seeing commercial values is not due to “anything we’re doing in South Burlington,” he said, but related to a backlog of work in other municipalities, including Burlington.

“I want to recognize Martha’s incredible work that she’s done in a difficult situation,” said Dorn. “You’ve done a remarkable job. The community owes you a debt of thanks.”

Lyons noted the change from old to new values is likely to “be the normal increase we see” during reappraisals, which is usually about 29-33 percent among residential and condo properties, she said.

Councilor Meaghan Emery asked if the city could be “facing another potential cliff,” considering the fluctuation of the market.

“I’m not sure on that,” said Lyons. “My concern is the state is going to shift again. I hope things level off and we’ll avoid that cliff.” She noted that after the city’s last reappraisal in 2006, the housing market dipped and then eventually leveled off.

The current reappraisal process started in October 2019 and studied about three years’ worth of property sales.

Lyons also gave a tentative preview of the tax bill timeline. She hopes to mail tax bills by July 30, assuming that reappraisal hearings wrap up in early July, allowing her time to finalize changes to the grand list, send the information to the state to set the education tax rate, and finalize the municipal tax rate.

If that timeline holds, first payments would be due by August 30 after which penalty interest would accrue.

For property-owners who request grievance hearings, Lyons suggests going to the city website and reading through individual property record cards which are available on the tax and assessment page.

In other city business, councilors reappointed Paul Stabler to continue representing the city on the Chittenden Solid Waste District.

They also endorsed continued research on a concept for installing solar at the Airport Parkway Water Treatment Plant.

Councilors appointed residents to South Burlington city advisory committees following a lengthy executive session, although Dorn said the list had not been ratified as of press time.

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