Vol. III No. 21 11/1/2022
The Residential Tax Exemption (RTE)
By John Hart
I guess it's time to get deeper into this RTE thing.
1st how do I stand on the matter?
Speaking for myself, not the Stockbridge Conservation Commission, I'm in favor of implementing it for at least one year so we have some real data regarding how it works.
Here's why. I recently attended an Assessor's meeting. During that meeting our Town Assessor declared he has never seen the assessed values of homes in Stockbridge rise by so much. 13% for 2023. (Your property taxes next year will be the assessed value times the rate).
Why does that happen? There are a number of reasons why the valuations went up so much, but the primary one is what people have paid for homes for sale in Stockbridge. We all know that Covid caused mass abandonment of cities. Then those folks, with considerable resources us Stockbridgians do not have, came to town and got into bidding wars with fellow buyers. If they really wanted the house, and it was for sale for $350,000 they'd offer $400,000 cash. Deal done — town property assessments go up.
Why else am I for the RTE? Being a member of our Conservation Commission I have an opportunity to see most if not all building projects in town. Here's why that is relevant: Someone owns a small cottage, and they want to improve it. In my experience they are not just updating the kitchen or baths, they are tearing the entire cottage down and building, what I call, monuments to money in their place. Bam! Tax assessments go up. Folks, these are not you and me, the voters and residents of our town, these are... second homeowners driving up our property taxes.
There's the issue of division between second homeowners and voters. Really? I'm not sure that holds a heck of a lot of water. Ex: The Stockbridge Bowl Association (made up close to 100% second homeowners) sued the Town and the Conservation Commission and I might add, each member, over dumping defoliant chemicals (like agent orange) into the lake. We protested, they sued and cost the town a fair amount in legal fees. Division!? They drew that line already. I have absolutely no problem drawing the next line. The RTE.
Please urge our Select board to reconsider their recent straw vote on this issue. Ask them why they think it's not a good idea. Also, there is a petition being circulated in town for those in favor to sign. Over 100 signatures so far and counting.
Editor's Note: Hart asked that SU explain the 13%. He wrote this before the valuations were posted. He quoted an anticipated average of 13%. However now that assessments are posted, we see the increases range as high as 30% to over 50%. Inns the increase in valuation is $100,000 or more.
Photo: Lenore Sundberg