Vol. III No. 23 12/1/2022
Notes from the Tax Classification Hearing, November 17, Hybrid meeting
- Patrick White, Chair, SB
- Chuck Cardillo, SB
- Jamie Minacci, SB
- Michael Blay Town Assessor
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
- 37 people attended via Zoom
- Could not see those present in room — will name if they speak
Michael Blay, Town Assessor presented:
- Blay distributed an Assessor's report
- The Tax Classification Hearing (TCH) is mandated by law. During the TCH, the Tax Rate is announced, Single payer tax rate or split tax rate is decided, and exemptions considered: the Small Commercial Exemption (SCE), the Residential Tax Exemption (RTE) and Open Space Exemption. The SB votes to take action or take no action on the exemptions
- Blay said the TCH is held after the public disclosure period is closed and the tax rate is set. However, Blay wanted everyone to know they can call anytime to ask about valuations
- Blay announced the new tax rate was set at $8.14
- The rate is down from last year ($9.38) and Blay said that was the "biggest dip" ever (down $1.24). Blay explained the rate went down so much because the valuations went up by an historic amount. If rate goes down when valuations go up, the resulting tax bills will not be uncomfortably high. In fact, at this lowered rate, Blay said, some tax bills will go down compared to last year.
- The levy is the amount to pay the bills of the Town and the rate is calculated to pay the levy. This year the levy is calculated at approx. $9.2million.
- Blay said, In order to lower the rate, Town lowered the Overlay Account and proposed to use "the cushion" (reserve funds including free cash) to pay for capital projects.
- As in all past years, the SB decided upon the single-payer rate, and to "take no action" on the Small Commercial Exemption (SCE)
- White opened the meeting to public comment on the Residential Tax Exemption (RTE)
- In answer to a question, White explained easiest way to determine if your tax bill will be higher or lower is to look at valuation. If the valuation is up more than 15% your tax bill will be higher
- Michael Roisman spoke in favor of RTE. He argued it was fair to shift a small amount of tax burden to second homeowners since second homeowners were responsible for the rise in valuation
- Candace Curry felt it was her civic duty, and felt good about paying RTE
- Shirley Miller was in favor of RTE so the Town could pay its bills including paying for capital projects (for example the millions for dredging and sewer expansion) from which all residents — primary and second homeowners - benefit
- Nick Nadorff wanted to know if the nonprofits in Town were paying anything in lieu of taxes. White said the nonprofits gave $70,000 in 2018 pre-COVID19 and $34,000 this year. White anticipated as nonprofits recuperate, they will reach the former giving level
- John Hart was pro-RTE but had a question about personal property tax (to be discussed at another time) He also asked Cardillo and Minacci to state why, at a previous meeting, they said they would never vote for RTE
- Josh Peyron said "no less expensive housing is available" because there are bidding wars between second homeowners, and small houses are torn down to build bigger more expensive ones
- Laura Dubester suggested we try RTE for a year, collect data and decide. She was concerned about capital projects down the road.
- A speaker said once passed it will never be reversed. Canales pointed out that, by law, RTE is considered every year and can be reversed at any time.
- Isabel Rose (Steve Rose), second homeowners, supported RTE as a vehicle for encouraging young families to buy in Stockbridge and building community.
- Someone said there were no signatures on the petition opposing RTE just a typed list of names
- Patty Caya wanted to correct the record — she used a Google program that generated a list of names that "virtually signed" her petition against RTE
- Jim Balfanz wanted to correct the record — the Finance Committee never voted against RTE however as a private citizen he opposes it
- Joe Newberg opposed RTE because it "demonizes" second homeowners
- Andrea Abramowitz opposed RTE because some second homeowners inherited their property, were not wealthy, and higher taxes could be a burden
- No more hands were raised so White closed the public comment segment of the meeting and opened it to SB deliberations. White spoke in favor. Cardillo spoke against. Minacci declined to speak
- White spoke in favor of RTE as a way to build community — encourage purchase by young families and elderly to stay in their homes. He felt good laws are passed to encourage outcomes. "From Konkapot to Mary Flynn" they stood for the best interests of the Town. For example, Chapter 61, a tax exemption program, gives a tax break to those who preserve farm and forest land.
- Cardillo was opposed because he thought the Town would have to hire extra staff to implement RTE. He thought there were other better options to help the elderly. He thought some of the other options would NOT shift the burden. Finally, he was concerned raising the taxes of some would shift the burden to renters or businesses.
- SB voted to "take no action" on RTE this year.
Editor's Note: 1. SU has invited both SB members who spoke to submit their comments for inclusion in the next issue. 2. SU received criticism of SB for bringing up RTE at Tax Classification Hearing. Evidently there was some confusion when at an earlier SB meeting Cardillo and Minacci said they would never vote for RTE. White pointed out since a majority vote is required to pass RTE, that would kill the measure. However, it is the law that SB bring up RTE at the Tax Classification Hearing and earlier comments in no way relieved SB of the legal obligation
Repair and pavement of Pine Woods driveway, partially funded with a Stockbridge Community Preservation grant.