Clarksburg Encourages Reporting ExciseTax Scofflaws

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The Board of Selectmen were brought up to date on a number of projects at last week's meeting.

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials are providing a way for residents to lodge complaints about excise tax scofflaws.

"We have had residents complaining that some people are registering out of state to avoid excise taxes," said Town Administrator Carl McKinney said at last week's meeting of the Selectmen.  

Forms are now available in the entrance of Town Hall that can be anonymously mailed into the Registry of Motor Vehicles to report someone suspected of registering their vehicles out of state. Out-of-state registrations can also be reported by calling the "I PAY TAX" hotline at 857-368-8099.

The proximity of Vermont, with its lack of automotive excise, is attractive for those trying to avoid the tax.

Massachusetts collects $25 per $1,000 valuation on vehicles, with the percentage levied dropping from 100 percent to no less than 10 percent over five years.

The town raises about $200,000 in excise tax commitments a year.

"It's a significant source of revenue for this town," McKinney said. Not registering in the state you reside is "illegal and if you're in an automobile accident you could be uninsured also. You could lose your house over this."

Avoiding excise deprives the town of revenue and puts more of the burden on those paying their share, he said.

In other business, the Selectmen also heard from Chris Horton, superintendent of the Berkshire Count Mosquito Control Project.

Clarksburg has been a member of the project but in recent years has considered withdrawing from the program.

Horton said the project uses a scientific process of integrated mosquito management to control all phases of the insect's life cycle.

Different types of mosquitoes breed in different areas, and the project can identify them by species and determine the control agent.

The town has 32 areas of standing water that are monitored on regular basis. A bacterial agent is used that poisons the mosquito and black fly larvae but not other organisms.

The project also works to eliminate standing water areas in which the insects breed, and traps them for testing eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus for the state.

In other towns, the project uses a truck-mounted spray that kills mosquitoes within 300 feet but doesn't leave any residual product. While people can opt out, Horton said should a public health emergency be declared, "everything would be sprayed."

Chris Horton, superintendent of the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project, explained what the program does.

There have been concerns raised recently about the spraying. McKinney noted that "there had been great concern about children and animals because of over spraying and that's why we don't do it in Clarksburg."

The Selectmen thought the presentation helpful and suggested that one be given to the Board of Health, which also has some new members.

McKinney reported on talks with town administrators and managers on a power aggregation agreement that would lock in electric rates for residents.

The representative for Colonial Power Group, the aggregation consultant, was unable to attend, but McKinney outlined the basics.

The town, forming with nine other municipalities, would be able to buy power at a set rate of about 10.9 cents kilowatt. The Albany, N.Y., district, McKinney noted, jumped about 20 cents a kilowatt last winter.

"We're looking to have the lowest rate," he said. "And do as long as we can for as cheap as we can."

The board also:

Approved the Berkshire Regional Planning Board doing a road inventory that should help in applying for grant funding. The cost of $2,200 will come from Chapter 90 funds.

Heard that the town has received its first reimbursement of $4,138 in so-called pothole money from the state out of a total of $11,300.

Discussed options for hiring a building inspector. The town has been through three in a short period of time.

"We need one for the security and safety of our residents," said McKinney.

The inspector is currently paid 70 percent of fees collected for inspections — but with one fee covering several inspections, the new inspector might be working for free.

The average amount paid the inspector is about $5,100 a year.

"That's just not enough, bottom line, we can't find a building inspector to save our soul," said McKinney.

He suggested the town keep all the inspection fees and, using $5,100 as a base, add in the building inspector, zoning officer and fence view stipends and $2,100 in the town administrator account to offer a flat salary of $8,000 and an educational stipend of $300.

Any changes would have to be approved at a special town meeting.

Tags: building inspector,   excise taxes,   mosquito,   mosquito spraying,   taxes,   

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