Vermont League of Cities and Towns
Board of Directors Meeting
Meeting held virtually via GoToMeeting or by telephone
Thursday, May 7, 2020
Members Present: President Weinberger, Vice President Peter Elwell and Members Jessie Baker, Dominic Cloud, Bill Fraser, Mary Ann Goulette, Elaine Haney, Delsie Hoyt, Ken Linsley, Sandy Pinsonault, George Putnam, Charles Safford and Lucrecia Wonsor.
Others Present: Jill Remick, Director of Property Valuation and Review, Department of Taxes; and VLCT staff members Mike Gilbar, Karen Horn, Gwynn Zakov, Elena Esteban, Abigail Friedman, Jessica Hill, Lisa Goodell, Ione Minot and Maura Carroll.
Agenda Item #1: Call to order by the President. President Weinberger called the meeting to order at 12:24 p.m. and welcomed all to the meeting.
Agenda Item #2: Additions and Deletions to the Agenda. Vice President Elwell requested that Item #10 on the agenda precede Item #6. On motion duly made by Member Cloud and seconded by Member Baker, the Board unanimously voted to approve the agenda as amended.
Agenda Item #3: Consent Agenda Items. On motion duly made by Member Putnam and seconded by Member Baker, the Board unanimously voted to approve the consent agenda.
Agenda Item #4: Grand List Software. Jill Remick, Director of Property Valuation and Review for the Department of Taxes, reviewed the choice of vendor for the grand list software, Axiomatic, and explained the process and timing for bringing Axiomatic on line. She also responded to questions from the Board.
Agenda Item #5: Organizational Update. Maura Carroll offered an update to the Board, including that all VLCT staff continues to be employed, with the exception of 2 positions, one fully furloughed and one partially furloughed. VLCT has offered FMLA to staff in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, so that positions will be protected during this time. Staff is also preparing for office re-integration when people can return to work. In the meantime, staff successfully transitioned to a remote workforce, and has been very productive at home. The hope is that information and webinars that have been provided, including financing options, FFCRA, grand list information, ACCD updates, as well as Karen Horn’s participation with the Emergency Management task force are assisting members with their duties during the pandemic. The goal is for members to see no reduction in service, no disruption in connecting with staff or in receiving information during this time.
Agenda Item #10 Finance Update. CFO Mike Gilbar offered an update on the current status of VLCT finances and provided the first quarter financial report. He offered projections about the League’s financial position by the end of 2020 and responded to questions posed by the Board. On motion duly made by Member Cloud and seconded by Member Haney the Board unanimously voted to accept the financial report and support the direction of the organization as presented.
President Weinberger left the meeting at 1:00 p.m.
Maura Carroll presented the request from the National League of Cities to participate financially and as advocates in the “Cities Are Essential” campaign, requesting that federal funds be sent directly to cities and towns throughout the country. Board members expressed a strong collective opinion that any federal monies from the next stimulus package be directed to individual cities and towns rather than states. Further, if monies are sent to states, the federal legislation should contain language that requires the states to distribute those monies to municipalities without retaining any funds at the state level. On motion duly made by Member Cloud and seconded by Member Safford the Board unanimously voted to approve the expenditure of $6100 to join the NLC campaign.
Agenda Item #6: Dues. In recognition of the difficult financial circumstances faced by all cities and towns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, staff recommended that the Board approve a delay in the deadline for VLCT dues payments. On motion duly made by Member Cloud and seconded by Member Pinsonault, the Board unanimously voted to approve sending the dues invoices at the usual time and to accept delayed payments to accommodate flexibility needed by members.
Agenda Item #7: Town Fair. Maura Carroll reported that she and Lisa Goodell met with the staff at the DoubleTree Hotel about the potential to hold Town Fair 2020 legally and safely. With the amount of uncertainty regarding physical distancing and the limitation on social gatherings, the discussion centered on alternatives to the traditional Town Fair, annual meetings and Municipal Policy adoption. On motion duly made by Member Cloud and seconded by Member Safford, the Board unanimously voted to approve changing the 2021 Town Fair venue to the DoubleTree in South Burlington and the 2022 venue to the Killington Grand Hotel, and asked the staff to come to the June Board meeting with a plan to hold the 2020 VLCT Annual Meeting in accordance with the VLCT bylaws.
Agenda Item #8: Board Per Diem. Current Board policy states that teleconference meetings are not compensable. Although this policy was put in place before the idea that virtual meetings could become a normal way of conducting business, and was meant to cover meetings that would be very brief, the Board agreed to keep the policy as is for the time being, acknowledging the financial status of the organization as it addresses potential shortfalls. The Board requested that staff bring an updated policy for review in the next several months. The policy should reflect that teleconferencing is not unusual and that if a teleconference is a regular Board meeting and not a special or brief check-in on a single issue or time-sensitive topic, the Board should be compensated.
Member Fraser left the meeting at 1:53.
Agenda Item #9: Joint Investment Committee Recommendation. The Joint Investment Committee voted to put the Investment Consulting Services contract out to bid. VLCT has been satisfied with the services of the consultant but the contract had not been bid in ten years. The recommendation of the Committee needs the approval of all three VLCT Boards before staff can start the bid process. On motion duly made by Member Safford and seconded by Member Linsley, the Board unanimously voted to approve putting the contract out to bid.
Member Goulette left the meeting at 2:00 p.m.
Agenda Item #11: Legislative Update. Karen Horn discussed legislation of interest to local government related to the COVID-19 response, including the ability of municipalities to waive tax due dates and a proposal for the State Treasurer’s Office to cover the cost of interest a town would need to pay if it had to borrow in order to cover education property taxes due to the Education Fund or school district in FY20 or 21. The committee is also interested in including language to direct the Department of Taxes to evaluate relieving municipalities from the obligation to collect education property taxes. Changes to Act 250 were also discussed.
The Board had a brief discussion about the 2021-22 legislative policy process and suggested that the process be as simple as possible, given current circumstances. On motion duly made by Member Safford and seconded by Member Haney, the Board unanimously voted to re-appoint the existing chairs and vice chairs for four legislative policy committees as follows: Peter Elwell, Chair of Finance and Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR) (Vice Chair to be determined); Mary Ann Goulette, Chair, and Justin Rabidoux, Vice Chair, of Quality of Life and Environment; Charles Safford, Chair of Public Safety (Vice Chair to be determined); Bill Fraser, Chair, and Jeff Wennberg, Vice Chair, of Water Quality; and unanimously voted to appoint Member Hoyt as Chair of the Transportation Committee.
Agenda Item #12: Other Business. Member Haney reported on some information relative to the Act 250 legislation that she received from Chris Cochran of ACCD during the meeting.
Maura Carroll reported that VLITE approved funding for the Department of Buildings and General Services’ proposal to assist municipalities, schools and hospitals with energy efficiency projects.
The meeting adjourned at 2:32 p.m.