Vol. II No. 18 9/15/2021
Notes from the Board of Assessors, September 7, Hybrid meeting.
- Gary Pitney, Chair
- Doug Goudey
- Tom Stokes
- Michael Blay, Town Assessor
- Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) used to perform utility evaluations, but now local governments perform them, or hire a consultant, and then transmit the information to DOR. Blay wrote a letter to DOR communicating the new utilities values for NStar, Berkshire Gas, and Mass Electric. Taxes are based on the evaluations. This year there are "big increases" in the evaluations. These are called "the 504"s because State Class Code 504 is "business personal property owned by regulated public utility companies."
- Forest, agricultural/horticultural, and recreational lands are classified, valued and taxed according to Mass General Law Ch.61, 61A and 61B, and are called Chapter lands. Chapter lands in Stockbridge were renewed.
- MGL 41A is a Tax Deferral Program for the elderly. The Commonwealth allows Elderly Real estate Tax Exemptions based on age and income. If granted, taxes are not paid until the person sells the house or dies. When that happens there is also an interest payment.
Currently every municipality in MA can offer the exemption to elderly residents earning less than $20,000. The municipality can also raise/lower that annual income figure to qualify. Some municipalities have the income figure as high as $50,000/annually.
The taxes plus interest are paid back when the house is sold or the taxpayer dies. The municipality can adjust the interest rate (now at 8%). Some municipalities have lowered it to 1% to 4%. These conditions are reviewed annually and both qualifying income and interest rate can be adjusted. Adjustments must be done at Town Meeting (TM). Since adjustments must be reported in April, and our TM is in May, Blay predicts no changes can be put into effect prior to 2023.
- Changes in Stockbridge in both new growth and increased valuation of property are significant according to Blay. This will affect taxes. Blay wants to take time posting the new tax rate both because of changes and also because of new staff at Town Hall. (LA-3, LA-4, LA-13 & LA-15 are property classification codes based on property use.)
- The Appellate Tax Board Case will hear a case on September 28. At issue is the Desisto School property owner's desire to defer taxes and the Town's refusal. The Tax Board will decide. Blay hopes it is not postponed.
- The Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) Program: Tom Stokes reported that the first meeting is September 10. Arranging for these to be Hybrid meetings. Members are Stokes, Chair; Jay Bikofsky, Gary Pitney, and Roxanne McCaffrey, Select Board Representative.
Lake Boats. Photo: Patrick White