Vol. III No. 18 9/15/2022
Thoughts on RTE
Some Respectful Responses to Recent Opinion Pieces on the RTE for Stockbridge and Some Questions for All of Us
by Joe Newberg
The sewers at Mahkeenac Heights, a modest, entry level camp-cottage community of about 50 densely-packed homes on a hill above the town beach, were installed by the Town 17 years ago, to address the uniform failure of 50 septic systems that were leaching downhill into the lake. Sewer installation stopped that, increased assessments of the modest camp-cottages (raising their taxes), enabled improvements, and also imposed fixed sewer fees (not based on actual usage, but on bedrooms), payable all year whether used or not. I am reasonably confident the upgrade not only benefited the Town but paid its way over time. Do you have sewers? Do other areas of the Town? Are they free to you? Did the Town install them? That of course is the Town's job—to provide and maintain necessary infrastructure for the entire town. Do you say it is wrong, offensive, and not of advantage to the Town to do so if the community served is mostly owned by part-time residents?
Mass hardship will not follow from the pending 20-30% upward revaluation of the town's total assessable real estate. That is misleading. The tax rate will almost certainly go down as the overall valuation goes up, unless the Town seeks to raise a larger budget than before. What the revaluation may do is change the relative values among existing properties –for example, new construction may go up more than older stock. The likely effect (not known until the assessors complete their tasks), is whether that will help or hurt anyone. The part- time population does its share of building and improvements, and I suspect its burden will thus go up compared to others, but the results will be case by case depending on specific facts. Did you miss all that? Do you care?
Abatement applications would seem merited. If the Town's general tax rate is increased 15- 20 percent because of an RTE (as the rough math might suggest), appraised market values of ALL residential properties will go down, no matter who owns them. That is simply how the market appraises real estate. The likely result is more uncertainty in budgeting, since revenue collections will be uncertain, with lots of paperwork on both sides. Do you want to ding the values of all residential properties in Stockbridge? Perhaps you do, but does everyone understand that?
Finally, there is no difference between the full-time and part- time populations of Stockbridge. We are all people: If you stick us, do we not bleed? If you wrong us, do we not seek redress?
We ALL love Stockbridge and seek its constant betterment. Dividing us instead of uniting us will not lead to common good. It is a bad idea for Stockbridge, it is unnecessary, it is inefficient, and it is wrong.
Let's kill the RTE and move on, united, to consider better options for whatever the wonderful Town of Stockbridge wishes to achieve.
Stockbridge artist Lionel Delevingne at the opening of his gallery show in Hudson, NY. Photo: Pool Photographer.