Vol. III No. 16 8/15/2022
Reader to Reader
Congratulations on turning two! Thanks as always for an excellent issue.
I'm writing because I was disheartened to read this comment made at the July Planning Board: "the area around Lost Lamb has become too congested. So congested that it obstructs pedestrians — signs, flags, sandwich board, many tables, etc."
The Lost Lamb is an absolute gem and Stockbridge is lucky to have such a wonderful business. They took up the empty space of another beloved bakery which it upgraded and expanded upon. I am proud of the flags. They speak to the inclusivity that Stockbridge represents (or should aspire to) making all people feel welcome. The seating is pleasant, much needed and has added to the friendly feeling of the town. Its popularity speaks for itself.
The Main Street Cafe across the street causes much more sidewalk congestion which, by the way, I find perfectly acceptable. Another beloved business. "Congestion" in this case means viable, hopefully profitable businesses that help lift our town up. I walk by both businesses with my dog daily and regardless of how busy they are, I have no trouble walking by.
Let's welcome all of our businesses old and new to brighten our town.
Best, Jess Prince
Thank you so much for writing and sharing your thoughts. Indeed, let's welcome and patronize all of our businesses.
At the same time, as you know, rules changed and loosened in response to COVID19. We were all happy to see that. Now we are slowly transitioning back and honoring all our Town rules and regulations.
I enjoy reading Stockbridge Updates and wanted to submit this photo I took while golfing at the Stockbridge Golf Club a few weeks ago.
The geese, all in a row, appear to be enjoying their reflection in the river!
Thanks for the good work you do to keep us all informed.
Kind Regards, Julie Patton
Thank you for the photo and for your kind words.
I hope the Board of Directors of CTSB-tv and selectboards everywhere in the county hear John Hart's message in his recent letter loud and clear.
Seniors, full-time workers, parents of young children, and anyone with medical issues making them vulnerable to Covid have been able to participate in our local governments because of the professional, high-quality recordings provided to us all by CTSB-tv. We all owe the station and its directors a great debt for keeping our democracy alive during the pandemic. This is not the time to slide backwards. The pandemic is not going away in the near future and our democracy is under assault by those who wish to accomplish their agendas without the rest of us knowing what's going on.
If local governments are to try to take over coverage, even partially, they must assure their citizens that CTSB-tv's reliable, professional coverage will be matched. I hope some of the new directors of CTSB-tv don't assume such reliable quality can be provided by all the towns.
Charles Kenny MD
To the Editor:
I feel the need to weigh in on the debate over the residential tax exemption. From 1980 - 2010 my husband and I were second homeowners in a house that my in-laws owned since 1964.
The property taxes were part of the cost of owning a second home and much lower than taxes on our primary home in NJ. Even when Stockbridge taxes quadrupled, they were still low in comparison. The Stockbridge tax rate is also lower than neighboring communities.
Now a full-time resident I am totally immersed in town politics and keeping Stockbridge a wonderful place for everyone to live and visit. It is quite painful to hear some of the comments directed at the full-time residents, members of the SB, and volunteers who serve on Town committees.
This is not a case of us against them. Second homeowners may not be able to vote but they are definitely able to express their opinions and hold seats on some boards and committees. Many full-time residents started out as second homeowners so can identify with their angst.
The town is inclusive of the needs of second homeowners. In May the town voted to support hybrid meetings to make it easier for everyone to participate remotely or find out later on CTSB what's taking place in town government. There is also an annual second homeowners meeting to address concerns.
The members of our current SB support transparency and human rights for all. The residential tax exemption is being considered as one way to help full-time residents remain in their homes as we pay the Town's bills.
It's not just 2nd homeowners who don't have children in the schools. Residents voted to raise property taxes to support our schools even though few primary residents have students in the schools The vote was passed to support the greater good.
While contributions to nonprofits are appreciated, the town also supports the nonprofits in many ways. Consider the possible tax increase as a contribution to the town and the townspeople who help keep Stockbridge the quintessential small New England town that we all love.
In most cases the tax increase under RTE is quite minimal — as little a few hundred a year, so it is disappointing that it's causing so many hard feelings. There are so many divisive issues in our nation, this shouldn't be one of them.
Second homeowners are not being targeted, we are all working together to solve real problems in Town.
Chairperson, Stockbridge Democratic Town Committee
In the talk about adopting a residential tax exemption the focus has understandably been on the desirability of relieving less well-off residents of a tax burden that can be a budget breaker. As a resident, I strongly share the wish to achieve that. What I detest about the proposal is that under the law as it now is, half or more of the cost from the RTE will go to finance tax breaks for residential property owners who do not need them, and who ought themselves to be participating in the financing of tax reductions for financially stressed residents.
This may help understand why, since the Residential Tax Exemption (MGL Ch. 59 Sec. 5C) was enacted in 1979, only 16 Massachusetts communities have elected to adopt it as a means of relieving less wealthy landowners of what for them may be excessive tax burdens. As currently worded, it provides every permanent resident of the adopting town with an assessment reduced for real estate tax purposes, so that every second home owner is paying real estate tax hundreds or even thousands of dollars higher than residents owning property with the same value as theirs, whether her property is assessed at $200,000 or $2,000,000. This creates a considerably larger tax loss than would occur if only the needs of less well-off landowners were met — resulting in a larger increase in the resulting tax rate for all taxpayers; and it has the effect of making second home owners only, not the resident owners of more valuable parcels, the ones supporting this deserved aid. The transparent injustice of this effect — taxation without representation to benefit comfortably situated property owners — has created community antagonisms where it has been adopted, and doubtless also helps explain why the RTE has been so rarely used.
We need to work with our state representatives to get a more appropriate RTE put in place. Like others owning property assessed above the community average assessment of about $600,000, if the RTE were adopted under current law, I would be paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars less in real estate taxes; My second home owning neighbor, similarly assessed, would be paying about that much more. Where is the justice in that?
- A primary homeowner with a house assessed at $1.6million+ (certainly $2million+) does not benefit from RTE. Here's why: at this point in time the break-even in Stockbridge is $1.6 million. The break-even is the point at which the assessed valuation of a parcel is benefit neutral. That is, a residential property at this valuation would pay the same amount regardless of whether the community adopted RTE
- A second homeowners with a house assessed at $200,000 will see a negligible tax increase — approximately $100 per tax bill/ $200 per year. A second homeowner with a house assessed at $600,000 would pay approximately $6-700 more dollars per year
- The reason few Massachusetts communities adopted RTE has to do with a specific and unique population distribution that does not occur in many places in Massachusetts or nationally.
- Everyone pays the same tax rate everyone shares in support of the Town, and helps meet the needs of its primary and secondary residents. There are things we all want — the sewer for example — and this is a way to work together and pay for them. It is not a divisive but a collective measure.
SU happily prints all opinions but is obligated to correct factual mistakes. Perhaps the chart prepared by Michael Canales will help you:
Residential Exemption — Annual Total Taxes
Based on the highest possible shift of 35%.
To the Editor
Stockbridge Selectman Patrick White stated in an article that the goal of the Resident Tax Exemption is to help people on fixed incomes and Social Security "afford to keep their homes and stay in this community as they have their entire lives."
I'm on a fixed income but as a municipal retiree I'm ineligible for Social Security! I'd like to afford to keep my (part-time) home and stay in the Beachwood community a few months per summer, as I have my entire life! My father built our cottage in 1947 and the only improvements have been a new roof, bathroom update and soon some pier work. Part-timers of modest means don't want to be forced out by rising costs, would like to keep our cottages and NOT sell out to those who'd tear them down to build luxury second homes!
Ancestor Harry Weeks designed Heaton Hall, the second Red Lion Inn after the 1897 fire, and the 1903 Stockbridge Town Hall. Generations of my family have lived in and contributed to the local economy. I take great umbrage to the comment by Chuck Koscher of Lenox that "they (second-home owners) drive up the cost of living". I'm burdened by higher taxes but see money entering the local economy from 'summer folk' who shop and dine locally, support local establishments like Naumkeag, The Mount, the Norman Rockwell and Chesterwood Museums, the Berkshire Botanical Gardens and more, plus contribute to local charitable organizations.
Is Koscher aware that MANY cottages in Beachwood have become full-time residences with owners adding to the population and finances of Stockbridge? Furthermore, our roads are private, so maintenance and plowing costs are NOT paid by the town, the town does NOT provide lighting or our water... yet my sewer fees for a few months in Stockbridge are MORE than double what I pay for an entire year at my primary residence! Stockbridge's rates are based on the number of bedrooms and a presumption of the number of people using water, with no consideration for the number of sinks, toilets, tubs, washers, dishwashers and outside faucets! I have 3 small bedrooms, one tub, toilet and two sinks, yet I pay the same high sewer fee as large families using multiple bathrooms, washers, and outside faucets!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You sound very concerned. I hope the chart above will help relieve your anxiety.