Vol. III No. 18 9/15/2022
Notes from the Board of Assessors, September 7, Hybrid meeting
- Gary Pitney, Chair
- Doug Goudey
- Michael Blay, Assessor
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
- Tammy Toupence, Secretary
- Valuation Recertification — required every five years
- Residential competed
- Commercial done soon — all evaluations must be within 99% of market value. One on Main Street was at 105% — not sure if Commonwealth will approve
- Commonwealth also asked for 5 top taxpayers in last 2 years
- At Selectman White's request, worked with Canales, and created chart of all available tax relief options.
- Some only give a maximum relief of $500/annually
- Some require the "impossible" — less than $20,000/annual income
- Some have age restriction
- The restrictions make them unusable and very few have ever applied — the tax reduction ($500) make them unappealing and just 7 — 10 people or less have applied while the Census data says Stockbridge is 13.4% under poverty level
- All of these are on the books and available right now (and have been for years). To make more useable, at Town Meeting, some requirements and benefits can be modified. Other tax laws can only be adopted, shifted, or modified by the Board of Assessors or Select Board
- Goudey wanted it clarified that none of the tax relief options effect the tax rate (everyone pays same rate) and that "the money has to come from somewhere" so all tax relief options affect other taxpayers. That is, "if the tax is $1 and someone pays 99cents, someone else pays the penny." [Just as with RTE]
- Canales wanted to recommend [?] tax deferrals. In that case, the Town is paid back later
- However, Goudey pointed out the bank has to approve the deferral as it handles it.
- While paid back later it may be a decade later, and do other taxpayers pick up shortfall in interim?
- Canales asked how many towns of the 351 in Mass have RTE? Canales did not know exactly but said that 16 adopted RTE as written, 5 adopted a means tested RTE and called it Home Rule, and an unknown number may have adopted a modified RTE. Canales had no way of knowing unless went through minutes of every town meeting.
- Questionnaire to determine if an organization qualifies for tax exempt status (501C3) is complete. Blay will send it to Berkshire Scenic Railway and ask that it be returned in 30 days. Chair wanted it mentioned that it is in their best interest to return it soon.
- Canales wants all boards and commissions in agreement "beforehand", so the people are not confused at Town Meeting.
- Public comment: Peter Ungaro wanted to thank Blay for being so available and informative
Board went into Executive Session—public meeting adjourned
Editor's note: SU invited Michael Canales to write a column on any topic he thinks would interest SU readers. It would be so informative if he could write and explain the advantages and disadvantages of seeking consensus among the boards before bringing a matter to Town Meeting (TM). He mentioned one advantage: "not to confuse" the voters at TM. Are there other advantages? Are there disadvantages? When a new process is introduced that is a departure from tradition, it is good to weigh the pluses and minuses before adopting it.
Work commences on the repair of the Soldier's Monument. Photo: Patrick White