The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 5404a. Tax stabilization agreements; tax increment financing districts
(a) A tax agreement or exemption shall affect the education property tax grand list of the municipality in which the property subject to the agreement is located if the agreement or exemption is:
(1) A prior agreement, meaning that it was:
(A) a tax stabilization agreement for any purpose authorized under 24 V.S.A. § 2741 or comparable municipal charter provisions entered into or proposed and voted by the municipality before July 1, 1997, or a property tax exemption adopted by vote pursuant to chapter 125 of this title or comparable municipal charter provisions before July 1, 1997; or
(B) an agreement relating to property sold or transferred by the New England Power Company of its Connecticut River system and its facilities along the Deerfield River which was warned before September 1, 1997.
(2) A tax stabilization agreement relating to industrial or commercial property entered into under 24 V.S.A. § 2741, or comparable municipal charter provisions.
(3) An agreement relating to affordable housing, which may be approved under this subdivision by the Commissioner of Taxes upon recommendation of the Commissioner of Housing and Community Affairs, provided the agreement provides either for new construction housing projects or rehabilitated preexisting housing projects and secures federal financial participation which may include projects financed with federal low income housing tax credits.
(4) An exemption of property owned by a nonprofit volunteer fire, rescue, or ambulance organization and used for the purposes of the organization, adopted, extended, or renewed by vote of a municipality under chapter 125 of this title or comparable municipal charter provision after July 1, 1997.
(5) An exemption of property owned by a municipality situated in another municipality, which has been exempted from municipal property taxes by vote of the municipality in which the property is situated, and which is used for municipal forest lands, municipal water supply, or for other noncommercial municipal purposes. To be exempted under this subsection, the property must have been voted an exemption by the municipality before January 1, 1998, and such exemption may be extended or renewed thereafter by a similar vote of the municipality.
(6) An exemption of a portion of the value of a qualified rental unit parcel. An owner of a qualified rental unit parcel shall be entitled to an exemption on the education property tax grand list of 10 percent of the grand list value of the parcel, multiplied by the ratio of square footage of improvements used for or related to residential rental purposes to total square footage of all improvements, multiplied by the ratio of qualified rental units to total residential rental units on the parcel. "Qualified rental units" means residential rental units which are subject to rent restriction under provisions of State or federal law, but excluding units subject to rent restrictions under only one of the following programs: Section 8 moderate rehabilitation, Section 8 housing choice vouchers, or Section 236 or Section 515 rural development rental housing. A municipality shall allow the percentage exemption under this subsection upon presentation by the taxpayer to the municipality, by April 1, of a certificate of education grand list value exemption, obtained from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA). VHFA shall issue a certificate of exemption upon presentation by the taxpayer of information which VHFA and the Commissioner shall require. A certificate of exemption issues by VHFA under this subsection shall expire upon transfer of the building, upon expiration of the rent restriction, or after 10 years, whichever first occurs. The certificate of exemption may be renewed once after 10 years, if VHFA finds that the property continues to meet the requirements of this subsection.
(b) An agreement affecting the education property tax grand list defined under subsection (a) of this section shall reduce the municipality's education property tax liability under this chapter for the duration of the agreement or exemption without extension or renewal, and for a maximum of 10 years. A municipality's property tax liability under this chapter shall be reduced by any difference between the amount of the education property taxes collected on the subject property and the amount of education property taxes that would have been collected on such property if its fair market value were taxed at the equalized nonhomestead rate for the tax year.
(c) Tax agreements not affecting the education property tax grand list. A tax agreement shall not affect the education property tax grand list if it is:
(1) A tax exemption adopted by vote of a municipality after July 1, 1997 under chapter 125 of this title, or voted under a comparable municipal charter provision or other provision of law for property owned by nonprofit organizations used for public, pious, or charitable purposes, or exemptions of property of a nonprofit volunteer fire, rescue, or ambulance organization adopted by vote of a municipality.
(2) A tax stabilization agreement relating to agricultural property, forestland, open space land, or alternate energy generating plants entered into after July 1, 1997 by a municipality under 24 V.S.A. § 2741.
(3) A tax stabilization agreement relating to commercial or industrial property entered into after July 1, 1997 by a municipality under 24 V.S.A. § 2741, or a property tax exemption for purposes of economic development adopted by vote after July 1, 1997.
(d) Tax agreements not affecting the education property tax grand list as defined in subsection (c) of this section shall not reduce the total education property tax liability of the municipality to the State under this chapter. However, such agreements shall reduce the education property tax liability of the owner of the property subject to the agreement to the extent provided in the agreement. A municipality shall assess a tax on its municipal grand list at a rate sufficient to raise an amount equal to the difference between the municipality's total education property tax liability to the State under this chapter and the amount collected from education property taxes in the municipality after reductions for all tax agreements in effect in the municipality as defined in subsection (c) of this section. Any such tax assessed under this section shall be identified on the tax bill of the municipality as a separate tax for municipally voted tax agreements.
(f) A municipality that establishes a tax increment financing district under 24 V.S.A. chapter 53, subchapter 5 shall collect all property taxes on properties contained within the district and apply not more than 70 percent of the State education property tax increment, and not less than 85 percent of the municipal property tax increment, to repayment of financing of the improvements and related costs for up to 20 years pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 1894, if approved by the Vermont Economic Progress Council pursuant to this section, subject to the following:
(1) In a municipality with one or more approved districts, the Council shall not approve an additional district until the municipality retires the debt incurred for all of the districts in the municipality.
(2) The Council shall not approve more than six districts in the State, and not more than two per county, provided:
(A) The districts listed in 24 V.S.A. § 1892(d) shall not be counted against the limits imposed in this subdivision (2).
(B) The Council shall consider complete applications in the order they are submitted, except that if during any calendar month the Council receives applications for more districts than are actually available in a county, the Council shall evaluate each application and shall approve the application that, in the Council's discretion, best meets the economic development needs of the county.
(C) If, while the General Assembly is not in session, the Council receives applications for districts that would otherwise qualify for approval but, if approved, would exceed the six-district limit in the State, the Council shall make one or more presentations to the Emergency Board concerning the applications, and the Emergency Board may, in its discretion, increase the six-district limit.
(3)(A) A municipality shall immediately notify the Council if it resolves not to incur debt for an approved district within five years of approval or a five-year extension period as required in 24 V.S.A. § 1894.
(B) Upon receiving notification pursuant to subdivision (A) of this subdivision (3), the Council shall terminate the district and may approve a new district, subject to the provisions of this section and 24 V.S.A. chapter 53, subchapter 5.
(g) Any use of education property tax increment approved under subsection (f) of this section shall be in addition to any other payments to the municipality under 16 V.S.A. chapter 133 and shall remain available to the municipality for the full period authorized under 24 V.S.A. § 1894 and shall be restricted only to the extent that the real property development giving rise to the increased value to the grand list fails to occur within the authorized period or by the enforcement provided by subsection (j) of this section.
(h) To approve utilization of incremental revenues pursuant to subsection (f) of this section, the Vermont Economic Progress Council shall do all the following:
(1)(A) Review each application to determine that the infrastructure improvements proposed to serve the tax increment financing district and the proposed development in the district would not have occurred as proposed in the application, or would have occurred in a significantly different and less desirable manner than as proposed in the application, but for the proposed utilization of the incremental tax revenues.
(B) The review shall take into account:
(i) the amount of additional time, if any, needed to complete the proposed development within the tax increment district and the amount of additional cost that might be incurred if the project were to proceed without education property tax increment financing;
(ii) how the proposed development components and size would differ, if at all, including, if applicable to the development, in the number of units of affordable housing, as defined in 24 V.S.A. § 4303, without education property tax increment financing; and
(iii)(I) the amount of additional revenue expected to be generated as a result of the proposed development;
(II) the percentage of that revenue that shall be paid to the Education Fund;
(III) the percentage that shall be paid to the municipality; and
(IV) the percentage of the revenue paid to the municipality that shall be used to pay financing incurred for development of the tax increment financing district.
(2) Process requirements. Determine that each application meets all of the following four requirements:
(A) The municipality held public hearings and established a tax increment financing district in accordance with 24 V.S.A. §§ 1891-1900.
(B) The municipality has developed a tax increment financing district plan, including: a project description; a development financing plan; a pro forma projection of expected costs; a projection of revenues; a statement and demonstration that the project would not proceed without the allocation of a tax increment; evidence that the municipality is actively seeking or has obtained other sources of funding and investment; and a development schedule that includes a list, a cost estimate, and a schedule for public improvements and projected private development to occur as a result of the improvements.
(C) The municipality has approved or pledged the utilization of incremental municipal tax revenues for purposes of the district in the same proportion as the utilization of education property tax revenues approved by the Vermont Economic Progress Council for the tax increment financing district.
(D) The proposed infrastructure improvements and the projected development or redevelopment are compatible with approved municipal and regional development plans, and the project has clear local and regional significance for employment, housing, and transportation improvements.
(3) Location criteria. Determine that each application meets at least two of the following three criteria:
(A) The development is:
(ii) high density; or
(iii) located in or near existing industrial areas.
(B) The proposed district is within an approved growth center, designated downtown, designated village center, new town center, or neighborhood development area.
(C) The development will occur in an area that is economically distressed, which for the purposes of this subdivision means that the municipality in which the area is located has at least one of the following:
(i) a median family income that is not more than 80 percent of the statewide median family income as reported by the Vermont Department of Taxes for the most recent year for which data are available;
(ii) an annual average unemployment rate that is at least one percent greater than the latest annual average statewide unemployment rate as reported by the Vermont Department of Labor; or
(iii) a median sales price for residential properties under six acres that is not more than 80 percent of the statewide median sales price for residential properties under six acres as reported by the Vermont Department of Taxes.
(4) Project criteria. Determine that the proposed development within a tax increment financing district will accomplish at least three of the following five criteria:
(A) The development within the tax increment financing district clearly requires substantial public investment over and above the normal municipal operating or bonded debt expenditures.
(B) The development includes new or rehabilitated affordable housing, as defined in 24 V.S.A. § 4303.
(C) The project will affect the remediation and redevelopment of a brownfield located within the district. As used in this section, "brownfield" means an area in which a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant is or may be present, and that situation is likely to complicate the expansion, development, redevelopment, or reuse of the property.
(D) The development will include at least one entirely new business or business operation or expansion of an existing business within the district, and this business will provide new, quality, full-time jobs that meet or exceed the prevailing wage for the region as reported by the Department of Labor.
(E) The development will enhance transportation by creating improved traffic patterns and flow or creating or improving public transportation systems.
(i) The Vermont Economic Progress Council and the Department of Taxes shall make an annual report to the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs and the House Committees on Commerce and Economic Development and on Ways and Means on or before April 1. The report shall include, in regard to each existing tax increment financing district, the date of creation, a profile of the district, a map of the district, the original taxable value, the scope and value of projected and actual improvements and developments, projected and actual incremental revenue amounts and division of the increment revenue between district debt, the Education Fund, the special account required by 24 V.S.A. § 1896 and the municipal General Fund, projected and actual financing, and a set of performance measures developed by the Vermont Economic Progress Council, which shall include the number of jobs created in the district, what sectors experienced job growth, and the amount of infrastructure work performed by Vermont firms. The provisions of 2 V.S.A. § 20(d) (expiration of required reports) shall not apply to the report to be made under this subsection.
(j)(1) Authority to adopt rules. The Vermont Economic Progress Council is hereby granted authority to adopt rules in accordance with 3 V.S.A. chapter 25 for the purpose of providing clarification and detail for administering the provisions of 24 V.S.A. chapter 53, subchapter 5 and the tax increment financing district provisions of this section. A single rule shall be adopted for all tax increment financing districts that will provide further clarification for statutory construction and include a process whereby a municipality may distribute excess increment to the Education Fund as allowed under 24 V.S.A. § 1900. From the date the rules are adopted, the municipalities with districts in existence prior to 2006 are required to abide by the governing rule and any other provisions of the law in force; provided, however, that the rule shall indicate which specific provisions are not applicable to those districts in existence prior to January 2006.
(2) Authority to issue decisions.
(A) The Secretary of Commerce and Community Development, after reasonable notice to a municipality and an opportunity for a hearing, is authorized to issue decisions to a municipality on questions and inquiries concerning the administration of tax increment financing districts, statutes, rules, noncompliance with 24 V.S.A. chapter 53, subchapter 5, and any instances of noncompliance identified in audit reports conducted pursuant to subsection (l) of this section.
(B) The Vermont Economic Progress Council shall prepare recommendations for the Secretary prior to the issuance of a decision. As appropriate, the Council may prepare such recommendations in consultation with the Commissioner of Taxes, the Attorney General, and the State Treasurer. In preparing recommendations, the Council shall provide a municipality with a reasonable opportunity to submit written information in support of its position. The Secretary shall review the recommendations of the Council and issue a final written decision on each matter within 60 days of the receipt of the recommendations. However, pursuant to subdivision (5) of this subsection (j), the Secretary may permit an appeal to be taken by any party to a Superior Court for determination of questions of law in the same manner as the Supreme Court may by rule provide for appeals before final judgment from a Superior Court before issuing a final decision.
(3) Remedy for noncompliance. If the Secretary issues a decision under subdivision (2) of this subsection that includes a finding of noncompliance and that noncompliance has resulted in the improper reduction in the amount due the Education Fund, the Secretary, unless and until he or she is satisfied that there is no longer any such failure to comply, shall request that the State Treasurer bill the municipality for the total identified underpayment. The amount of the underpayment shall be due from the municipality upon receipt of the bill. If the municipality does not pay the underpayment amount within 60 days, the amount may be withheld from any funds otherwise payable by the State to the municipality or a school district in the municipality or of which the municipality is a member.
(4) Referral; Attorney General. In lieu of or in addition to any action authorized in subdivision (3) of this subsection (j), the Secretary of Commerce and Community Development or the State Treasurer may refer the matter to the Office of the Attorney General with a recommendation that an appropriate civil action be initiated.
(5) Appeal; hearing officer. A hearing that is held pursuant to this subsection shall be subject to the provisions of 3 V.S.A. chapter 25 relating to contested cases. The hearing shall be conducted by the Secretary or by a hearing officer appointed by the Secretary. If a hearing is conducted by a hearing officer, the hearing officer shall have all authority to conduct the hearing that is provided for in the applicable contested case provisions of 3 V.S.A. chapter 25, including issuing findings of fact, hearing evidence, and compelling, by subpoena, the attendance and testimony of witnesses.
(k) The Vermont Economic Progress Council may require a third-party financial and technical analysis as part of the application of a municipality applying for approval of a tax increment financing district pursuant to this section. The applicant municipality shall pay a fee to cover the actual cost of the analysis to be deposited in a special fund which shall be managed pursuant to chapter 7, subchapter 5 of this title and be available to the Council to pay the actual cost of the analysis.
(l) The State Auditor of Accounts shall conduct performance audits of all tax increment financing districts according to a schedule, which will be arrived at in consultation with the Vermont Economic Progress Council. The cost of conducting each audit shall be considered a "related cost" as defined in 24 V.S.A. § 1891(6) and shall be billed back to the municipality. Audits conducted pursuant to this subsection shall include a review of a municipality's adherence to relevant statutes and rules adopted by the Vermont Economic Progress Council pursuant to subsection (j) of this section, an assessment of record keeping related to revenues and expenditures, and a validation of the portion of the tax increment retained by the municipality and used for debt repayment and the portion directed to the Education Fund.
(1) For municipalities with a district created prior to January 1, 2006 and a debt repayment schedule that anticipates retention of education increment beyond fiscal year 2016, an audit shall be conducted when approximately three-quarters of the period for retention of education increment has elapsed, and at the end of that same period, an audit shall be conducted for the final one-quarter period for retention of education increment, except that for the Milton Catamount/Husky district and the Burlington Waterfront district only a final audit shall be conducted to cover the period from the effective date of the rules pursuant to subdivision (j)(1) of this section to the end of the retention period.
(2) For municipalities with a district created after January 1, 2006 and approved by the Vermont Economic Progress Council, an audit shall be conducted five years after the first debt is incurred and a second audit seven years after completion of the first audit. A final audit will be conducted at the end of the period for retention of education increment. (Added 1997, No. 60, § 45, eff. Jan. 1, 1998; amended 1997, No. 71 (Adj. Sess.), § 47, eff. March 11, 1998; 2003, No. 76 (Adj. Sess.), § 7, eff. Jan. 1, 2004; 2003, No. 163 (Adj. Sess.), § 33, eff. Jan. 1, 2004; 2005, No. 184 (Adj. Sess.), § 2h; 2007, No. 81, §§ 12, 13, eff. June 11, 2007; 2007, No. 190 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 61, 63, 64; 2009, No. 47, § 6, eff. May 28, 2009; 2011, No. 45, § 15a, eff. May 24, 2011; 2013, No. 80, §§ 12-16, eff. June 7, 2013; 2013, No. 174 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 13, 14, eff. June 4, 2014; 2015, No. 11, § 28; 2015, No. 57, § 60, eff. Jan. 1, 2014; 2015, No. 157 (Adj. Sess.), § H.6, eff. Jan. 1, 2017; 2017, No. 69, § J.4, eff. June 28, 2017; 2017, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 33, eff. May 21, 2018; 2019, No. 14, § 77, eff. April 30, 2019.)