LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The tax rate is going up 38 cents, or 2 percent, over last year.
The Board of Selectmen approved a single tax rate of $19.36 per $1,000 of assessed value on Monday to raise the needed $7.6 million for the budget. For the average single-family home valued at $216,761 that will translate to a $79.25 increase.
"There was relatively no change in the average value," Assessor Kelly Tolisano told the Selectmen.
The average home decreased by only $164 in value, she said. The average tax bill will change from $4,117.24 to $4,196.49.
The board did have the option to go to a split rate, which puts more of the burden on commercial properties but opted to continue with the longstanding tradition of a single rate for all. At the maximum, the Selectmen could have set the commercial rate at $29.04 and the residential rate at $16.89.
The town has an excess levy capacity of $205,785.52. The majority of the properties — 79 percent — are residential while 20 percent are commercial.
In other business, the Selectmen approved a new contract for Town Administrator Paul Sieloff. The three-year contract calls for a 2 percent performance increase each year of the contract and adds two days of vacation in each of the first two years. The contract also changes the title from town administrator to town manager, though the job description will stay the same.
"He's done a good job for the years I've been here," Chairman John Goerlach said.
Sieloff took the job in 2012, becoming the town's first full-time administrator. Selectman Robert Ericson credited Sieloff with "cleaning up" many of the issues that have been long dormant when the town hadn't employed a full-time administrator.
"We'd be lost without him. We could never do it as a part-time board," Selectman Henry "Hank" Sayers said.
Sieloff's contract expired on Oct. 28 and he has been working under the last terms since then. The new contract will expire on Oct. 28, 2018. Sieloff's current salary is $73,920.
During the open microphone session on Monday, Gordon and Kara Zaks both spoke against an upcoming vote on a new backyard fowl bylaw. Kara Zaks raises ducks and chickens on her Narragansett property and the town is proposing to limit the number that one resident can have to six.
"I really do not want to give up my love, my passion, these birds," Kara Zaks said.
The father-daughter team said six is too low of a number and questioned the legality of such a law because the town is a "right to farm" community. Kara Zaks said she sells the eggs and meat for extra income, donates eggs to food pantries, is breeding and protecting an endangered species of ducks, and even sells the duck eggs to cancer patients who can't eat the more acidic chicken eggs.
"You are driving them out. You are driving out people who are trying to extend their income," Gordon Zaks said.
Goerlach, however, says similar laws have been put in place in a number of other communities and the right-to-farm law doesn't apply to the residential area where Kara Zaks lives. The chairman said there are other properties in town the bylaw looks to restrict, so it isn't just focused on that one property.
The town meeting warrant had already been set, so the Board of Selectmen had no authority to change the warrant. They told the Zaks that the decision is now up to the voters.
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