(Host) Town officials are urging Governor Jim Douglas to sign a bill that makes changes to the state’s current use tax program.
Under current use, a property is taxed on its value as a farm or forest land, rather than its higher, development value.
The bill adds a one time fee to the program, and it increases penalties if land is withdrawn for development.
Tom Vickery is an appraiser for the towns of Stowe, Waterbury and Duxbury. He says that the legislature essentially restored the penalties to where they had been when the program was first created.
(Vickery) "What we were seeing was people coming into the program more for a tax avoidance situation than from a preservation of farmland and forestland and for the quality of what we see as the landscape. And that was really because of the watered down penalty in our mind."
(Host) But Ed Larson of the Vermont Forest Products Association said many forest land owners are leery of the changes.
(Larson) "And I don’t think landowners are going to sit comfortably not really knowing their future and not really knowing what it will cost them to make changes. This program has always been about empowering landowners to participate in the working landscape. Now they’re going to feel like they’re in some sort of trap."
(Host) Both sides are lobbying Governor Douglas on the issue. A spokesman for Douglas said the governor had not decided whether he will veto the bill. The spokesman said the governor was concerned about the potential costs to landowners.