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Officials object to changes in lister training requirements

PUTNEY—Town officials are unhappy with upcoming changes to the state’s training requirements for listers. Cost, time, and a lack of support for southern towns were cited as problems at the discussion during the Aug. 17 regular Selectboard meeting.

Lister Christopher Landin appeared at the Board meeting to announce the changes, which require all listers to attend a series of seminars. The trainings last four days, and listers who don’t take them soon can’t sign “411” forms — certifications of the town’s grand list.

Landin recommended the three listers, himself included, receive the training so they all can run the lister’s office.

He said he wanted the Board to know about this now instead of when the new rules go into effect because the required courses happen once a year — some in September. Lister Geordie Heller said he couldn’t attend this year’s training.

None of the seminars take place in the southern part of the state, Landin said, noting that he asked the Department of Taxes district representative to have some of them closer than St. Johnsbury, South Burlington, and Montpelier. Other than one in White River Junction, all of the year’s trainings are held in those three towns.

The Department hasn’t responded to his request, Landin said.

Cost is another factor affecting towns, including Putney. Landin provided figures on what the trainings will cost the town, including transportation reimbursements and work hours logged by the listers.

Although the state will cover the cost of the classes, the town is responsible for the rest, and Landin’s estimates showed mileage alone at just under $1,700.

For just one lister to attend, time and mileage will cost just over $2,300, Landin said.

“We’re kind of in a pickle,” Landin said.

Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard and Board members discussed possible sources in the budget for covering the costs of training the listers.

Stoddard told the listers and Board members she is in favor of training and sees its value, “but that’s a lot of expectation for a possible short-term employee.”

Listers are elected at Town Meeting. Stoddard asked why the state is “requiring this of people who may or may not be there next March?”

Stoddard asked Landin and Heller if they knew if the state had received pushback from other towns’ officials. They offered no answer at the Board meeting.

Board member Josh Laughlin suggested these new requirements “may change when they find they can’t get enough towns” to comply, adding, “the travel part is huge."

According to Stoddard, any town that doesn’t get its listers trained will be left with no one empowered to certify the grand list.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #372 (Wednesday, August 31, 2016). This story appeared on page D1.

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