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A farmstead in peril

Herrick Hurlburt's land was originally assessed by the Town of Monkton at $1,452,400. It was later "reduced," barely a micron, to $1,450,200. One of the Hurlburt property sites, occupied by Herrick's son Michael, was also assessed above the local average just because it has "lovely views of the Adirondacks."

Michael Hurlburt likes to cite Vermont's extinct Council of Censors which was designed to oversee the collection and use of public funds and taxes.

In the historic council records, you can find references to old Article 9 of the state Constitution which stated that "taxes shall never be a burden" on Vermont's citizens. Article 9 was later rewritten, the reference to "burden" mysteriously deleted. In fact, old Article 9 proclaimed that taxes "to be raised ought to appear clear to the legislature to be of more service to the community than the money would be if not collected..." Wow, imagine that Vermont government used to have this philosophy written into its Constitution! How far we've strayed from our founding revolutionary ideals.

Today, the Hurlburts owe the towns of Monkton and New Haven something on the order of $28,000. Minus land use and school taxes, the family property tax bill stands at $20,000.

A lot of the land in question is marshy and rocky, but that hasn't deterred appraisers from assigning a "bulkland" prime real estate status-the point being, how many taxes could the town generate if the Hurlburts sold and those 1,151 acres were cleared for new homes? (Don't forget those "lovely views of the Adirondacks".) But to be fair, not all the blame is with town officials and their appraisals. The mess of the Hurlburt land is just the tip of a very big tax iceberg. Local appraisers are dictated to by state rules, thanks to the dictates of "Common Level of Appraisal".

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