Town Assessor Donna MacDonald gives the Board of the Selectmen the rundown on their options at Wednesday's tax classification hearing.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen voted on Wednesday to retain a dual property tax system that will shift 15 percent of the tax burden to the commercial side for fiscal 2015.
This is the same rate Adams has used for the past five years.
Tax rates will go up for both residential and commercial, with residential property being taxed at $21.36 per $1,000 valuation and commercial at $25.37. The increases are $1.41 and $1.68, respectively, over last year, or about 7 percent.
If the board had chosen a single rate, both commercial and residential would have been levied at $22.06 per $1,000.
Town Assessor Donna MacDonald told the board at the tax classification hearing that the town has has gained $4 million in value overall, despite losing $1.2 million worth of properties.
"We are losing value but on the other hand we are also gaining value by new homes, just not as frequently as we have seen in the past," MacDonald said.
She said the total amount needed to be raised by taxes is $10,375,162. The tax levy is $9,733,111, however, the debt exclusion from the Hoosac Valley High School renovation is $642,051.
"I think if you look at it you will see that where our increase is is the debt exclusion, and this is supposed to be the highest year," MacDonald said. "So we are going in the right direction."
The debt on the bond for the new school, shared with Cheshire, will decrease as it matures.
Jeffrey Lefebvre criticized the board for not doing enough to keep the tax rate from climbing.
"In the past five years, we have turned around and gone up over 28 percent on our tax rate," he said. "I understand town meeting has already set the budget, but I am hoping in the future you can critique this a little bit better because we can't keep going up like this."
The amount of spending by the town is putting pressure on its increasingly elderly population, he said.
"The population of this town is primarily elderly, and you can't keep going up like this. It is ridiculous," he said. "I have been coming to meetings for 40 years and these last five have been the worst I have seen spendingwise."
Selectman Jeffrey Snoonian said the solution is not so simple.
"We have a dwindling population, and … we needed to renovate the school or the state … was going to get involved," he said. "There are so many factors that go into this, and I think to get up and rally about spending is good."
Selectman Joseph Nowak said the tax rate needs to be increased.
"I'm not the kind of a guy to want to raise taxes because I certainly am not a very well-to-do guy myself, but it has to be done," Nowak said. "I hate to have to do it, but where can we go without doing it. I'd rather see the shift differential."
Selectman Johnathan Duval was concerned over why Adams has such a high tax rate compared to other areas in Berkshire County.
"I imagine now that we have the highest tax rate in the county ... probably the top five in the state and there has to be a reason for that," Duval said. "Our bills are average throughout the county, but there must be a reason for the tax rate."
The average home in Adams, worth around $140,000, can expect a tax bill of about $2,990.
Duval said in order to fix the problem, they have to pinpoint the issue and work to correct it.
"We need to use strategic planning before we go into our next budget season, and in my opinion if we don't do anything we are going to come back and talk about the same thing next year," he said. "We as a community need to get together and talk through this."
The board agreed to get together with other boards and departments and try to resolve the issue.
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