Vol. III No. 18 9/15/2022
Notes from the Select Board, September 8, Hybrid meeting
- Patrick White, Chair
- Chuck Cardillo
- Jamie Minacci
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
Also present in the room and via Zoom: over 50 people — named if they speak
- Four EV Charging Stations at Town Offices (with signs) $88,916; space to expand to 10; approved unanimously
- Senior Center to reopen (with a luncheon) Wednesday September 21th — 11am – 2pm RSVP by September 12.
- To approve $4million in bonds (loan at 3.64%) long rendition required by Commonwealth
- Nick Nadorff and Marty Sennett presented proposal for a walkway from Pine Woods to Town. Mary Berle and Jim Balfanz also worked on this project.
- There were two suggestions (or possibly execute both). One behind Pine Woods through woods and the other a "sidewalk" parallel to road (Rte. 102) Destination points: the library, the post office, the bus stop.
- Is there a Laurel Hill Preservation grant? Is there American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money? BRPC money?
- Joanna Linsky said she had formed a residents' group which supported the walkway and also had concerns about the condition of driveway and general maintenance.
- Linsky emailed Minacci several times but did not hear back so attended meeting with concerns about driveway and maintenance.
- Nadorff volunteered to repair driveway at his own expense if he was allowed. There was concern as Pine Woods is privately owned not owned by the Town.
- White will get the answer/permission from owners (Construct) and report back — will also check for possible funding
- Alternatives to RTE — After last SB meeting White requested Canales and Blay create a list of alternatives to RTE that are "tax relief"
- Canales presented a list of 10 or more currently available. All except one offered to Stockbridge residents in the past
- Very few take advantage — fewer than 10 in a year
- Some are "unusable" because of unrealistic criteria (e.g., household income of less than $20,000) and very low relief (e.g., maximum relief of $500)
- Some of those requirements can be adjusted at Town Meeting — others cannot — still others can only be adopted or modified by Board of Assessors or SB
- Many like Tax Deferral — where the entire tax can be deferred until death or sale of property — disadvantages are criteria (below $20,000 deferred at 8% per year interest until repaid) Many do not want to shift burden to their children. Suggestion: at TM — increase income to $62,000 (the median) and reduce interest to 1%
- All are currently available. Whichever used and however much awarded in tax relief — just as with RTE — that amount must be "made up" somehow. Someone said perhaps not with Tax Deferral as it is paid back eventually. However, that may be a decade or more and what happens in interim?
- RTE discussion
- Adopted by decision of SB
- Reduces assessment on primary homeowners' property between 10% and 35%
- Assessment of second homeowners not reduced
- Works in Stockbridge because there has been a major leap in assessments due to recent sales and because 60% of homeowners in Stockbridge are second homeowners so tax shift to majority (Show Canales' chart here)
- 16 communities adopted — another 5 adopted "Home Rule" (RTE with means test) and Canales said total could be more because if modify terms of RTE change name
- Public comment on RTE
- Jay Bikofsky, Chair of Finance Committee (FC) but "speaking for myself" wanted to understand and weigh all options
- Steve Shatz, also on FC, wanted it known that although FC created a list of points in opposition to RTE, they took no vote. Shatz spoke about the necessity for a "housing policy". White offered that at last SB meeting they approved funds for a housing study. Shatz asked if it was done yet? White said no, not in two weeks, perhaps by spring. White wondered if we could return to discussion of RTE?
- Ed Lane — also on FC — opposed to second homeowners "funding projects". Asked White how that could be true if RTE is net zero?
- Cardillo thought Town is doing fine and White is just scaring people
- John Hart supported RTE and told the story of an elderly woman — a neighbor — who called him in a panic when she opened her tax bill. It was much larger than expected. She saved all year in anticipation of that one bill and now it was much larger. At 86 years old, on a fixed income, the bill was up $800. A giant sum to her. She sat crying and Hart felt her pain.
- Peter Strauss said that was a moving story but RTE unfair to shift tax burden to second homeowners and unfair if RTE gives wealthy primary homeowners a tax break. "Mechanics are established by Commonwealth," he said, "and automatic [adjustment] is unfair." White said everyone who needs relief gets relief — that's fairness
- Cardillo then said he had to speak. He was opposed "and will never vote for this [RTE]" He thought tax deferral at $62,000 income, and 1% interest was good.
- Minacci said she agreed with Cardillo — would never vote for RTE because she was "grateful for the part-timers but disliked jillion-dollar houses."
- White said he still supported RTE, but "this is a democracy, there are three on the SB if 2 are inalterably opposed, RTE is dead." He called for a motion to adjourn.
- Canales, who could see the Zoom attendees on his screen, said there were 4 with hands up. Three wanted to speak about RTE. White said it was now off-the-table, but if they wished they could. One woman (name?) had a list of objections to RTE. Anita Schwerner was sad RTE was dead. Dick Jaffe thanked White for "his decorum" in running the meeting, was sure part-timers wanted to do their fair share but didn't like divisiveness of RTE. Jane Karlin agreed with Jaffe.
Photo: Jay Rhind