Dear John Cushing, Karen Richard, fellow muninet contributors,
(apologies on the length of this)
I am impressed by your diligence and organized effort to educate the powers that be about what we as town clerks/treasurers have to do to operate according to statutory requirements and fulfill obligations and duties of our positions. We are lucky as a group to have you all to represent us and be our collective voice at the gold dome. I have no doubt you will do good work for us and make us proud.
There is just one point in your post John that I take issue with. That is the comment about “inappropriate comments” being posted on muninet and that they might better be directed towards the specific legislator or responsible party/entity that we as individuals are upset or frustrated with. I do understand your position, and that of others who feel that perhaps the old adage “if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all,” might be wise to invoke before posting. However, having worked within state/local government for almost two decades now in various capacities, I think that at this moment in time the muninet is one of the most effective and powerful tools for communication between all these individual town clerks/treasurers throughout the state. This great tool will lose its usefulness if for whatever reason the people who utilize it to ask questions or share thoughts they feel strongly about no longer do so. It also is the same powerful tool for anyone (elected officials, media) who wishes to study the current concerns and issues affecting the clerks and treasurers in this state. Also, how much effort are we supposed to put into finding who exactly should be the recipient of our general comment on a specific issue? That in itself can be a time-consuming task with little reward in the end, not really worth the effort, and yet another source of stress and frustration.
We are all aware that this forum is a public place and our email addys as well as our business signatures are public information when we choose to post a comment or question here. We don’t hide behind anonymity and most of us speak from years of experience. What I’m getting at is that we are all responsible for our written words on here which are committed to history just like the land records and documents we record and reference almost daily in our jobs. We are responsible people and are aware we play an important role in our respective towns. If per chance I happen to stick my foot in my mouth here on the "interweb", it is I alone who will live with the consequence of that.
As humans however, we also sometimes need to vent our frustrations about the bureaucracies we deal with daily and need to reach out to our peers to query them on their policies and procedures. Frankly, I don’t know how we’d all do that if we didn’t have this forum or similar tool to do that. Sometimes when I read posts on here from different “authority” figures asking for private emails in response to a clerk asking about specific situations, it gives me a feeling that “they” (the authority figures) are looking to divide and conquer us as a group, and to stifle our concerns, and in essence not air dirty laundry in public. No agency is perfect, none of us is without fault. If one doesn’t acknowledge a problem then it can’t be addressed. There is power in numbers. How do we know there are a number of us with the same concerns unless we become aware of it? Can you count as many times as I can the problems with a process, system, or agency that have come to light because a single clerk or treasurer reached out to their peers on muninet with a question or concern?
We have regular financial audits but there are no audits on best practices, procedures and policies and a clerk could spend their entire career unaware of what is happening across the state, and not be subject to any consequence for that. A lot of what we do as clerks in running our offices is “suggested” best practice. The only consequence of ignorance or incompetence in this office of clerk or treasurer is the person who follows us may be at a tremendous deficit, and the town as a whole may suffer due to poor office policy.
Not all clerks are members of the VMCTA and membership is NOT compulsory. Therefore not all clerks have access to that listserve. Not all subscribers to muninet here are clerks or treasurers. Right now it’s a good mix here and I feel we benefit from that combination. I thank you all for your contributions and comments to this forum whether someone deems them appropriate or not. Which also brings up another point: What one person may deem inappropriate or offensive for whatever reason another individual may find to be humorous and enlightening and a trigger to remind ourselves that life is too short to be so tightly wound and serious 24/7/365. Lighten up! While some readers may be expressing their concern to you John over the lack of self-censorship, I know as fact that there are others who feel the complete opposite. Sometimes things get posted in error, not all are as proficient in email as others and again, we’re only human. And sometimes an issue that is near and dear causes a person to speak uninhibited about it (C’mon, tell us how you really feel!”) unlike politicians who double talk and dance around issues always being politically correct with every word. Venting is also a form of stress relief.
Especially for us out in the fringes of rural Vermont, this communication tool called muninet is a fantastic asset in our toolbox of professional resources. I do hope that it continues to be a place to share and learn and to help us find out what is happening in other town offices across the state. Thank you again to those who take the time to help educate those making the laws we will have to implement.
From: John Cushing <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Jan 30, 2009 4:29 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Bill S.19 "extending deadline date of homesteads"
The background as I understand S.19 was due to a couple of elderly people not receiving a Homestead due to an out-of-state person trying to help them file their HS-122. The Town Clerk was trying to help them out as well as others that may have been in the same boat because in this particular town the tax bills were not mailed until after the Sept. 1st deadline. The Senators who introduced it were sensitive to the issue and listened to that Town Clerk and they were trying to fix this issue by introducing this bill. Hooray for the Town Clerk for trying to find a solution to the problem and Hooray for the Senators who introduced it when asked for help by the Town Clerk.The 2 points that I am trying to make are that we do not always understand the background on some of the bills that get introduced in the legislature and a very small percentage of these bills that are introduced ever become law. The Legislative Committee that is appointed by the Clerks and Treasurers Association works extremely hard to try to track and when appropriate to testify on new legislation. I would like to suggest that if we see a Bill that we do not agree with, that you please refer comments directly to the Chair of the Legislative Committee, Karen Richard of Colchester ([log in to unmask]) or Alison Kaiser ([log in to unmask]) through their email. They would be glad to hear from anyone about any legislation issue that you may have.The fact is, while this discussion was going on through Muninet, Karen and I were sitting in the Government Operations Committee in the House of Representatives talking about the HS-122 and the difficulty that we as, treasurers, are having in complying with the requirements of the collection of the education funds. The Legislative Committee is very well versed on the issues affecting clerks and treasurers that are before the legislature - the introduced bills are read daily by at least 3 different clerks and treasurers. We are in the beginning part of this session and a great deal of discussion will need to be taken and I assure you that the Legislative Committee will do everything it can to get the information to the representatives and senators. Speak to your representatives and senators and make the legislative committee aware of what you have told them -- we need to be on the same page - and that is very difficult in Vermont as there are 247 towns and very few of us perform our duties in the same manner.I, for one, do not intend to censor any comments made on the Muninet. However, I have had several people confront me about comments being made on this list serve that fellow clerks and treasurers felt were inappropriate. There is no one who can get more emotional about municipal issues than myself, but I have had to wait a couple of days before making my comments so as not to let my anger about an issue and say things that I might regret later. It might be better to not direct our comments at any particular person or persons when responding to an issue.In closing, please stay in touch with Karen and Alison. We need your support more than ever this year if we are going to change some of the legislation that is before the House and Senate. Thank you and have a great weekend.John P. CushingTown Clerk & TreasurerTown of MiltonPO Box 18Milton, VT 05468(802) 893-4111Visit our website: www.milton.govoffice2.com
----- Original Message -----From: Roberta DanaSent: Friday, January 30, 2009 10:33 AMSubject: Bill S.19 "extending deadline date of homesteads"In the legislative report from VLCT dated 1/23/09 there is a bill (S.19) being considered in the Senate Finance that"Would extend the filing deadline for homestead declarations and property tax adjustments from September 1 to 21 days after the postmark date on the tax bill. Would extend the deadline for property tax adjustment claims from September 1 to 60 days after the postmark on the tax bill."I don't know about all the other towns but in Groton, we do NOT have a postmark date on OUR TAX BILLS. The envelope would have a postmark date but we DO NOT accept postmarks as timely payment so why do this to us?Does anyone have any idea what the idiotic purpose of this bill is other than to make the whole process MORE confusing and MORE work for tax collectors? Legislators, you need to come and process this work in the town offices and see how you like it. Don't you have anything more serious to work on in Montpelier?Let's make people take responsibility for their own actions and if you are supposed to file your homestead declaration by April 15th then if you file it on April 16th IT IS LATE, NO HOMESTEAD, DEAL WITH IT!I don't see the IRS giving all these "late" options to anyone other than the normal 3 month extension which does not eliminate interest, etc.Opinions????Roberta Dana
Town Treasurer & Tax Collector
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