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Town Assessor Donna MacDonald explains the calculations for determining the tax rate.

Adams Property Owners See Tax Rate Drop for Fiscal 2019

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The Board of Selectmen voted to keep a split tax rate and set the commercial rate at a percentage of 1.15
ADAMS, Mass. — Homeowners will see their tax rate drop by 82 cents for fiscal 2019, reflecting a surge of new growth and careful budgeting. 
The very pleased Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night voted to keep a split tax rate that will also see a drop on the commercial side even though it will shoulder more of the tax burden. 
The rate for residential will be $21.39 per $1,000 valuation; the commercial rate will be $25.40, a 14 cent drop from this year. The commercial and industrial shift will increase from 1.12 to 1.15. Businesses also pay tax on equipment and materials. 
The owner of single-family home is valued at about $140,000 should see her tax bill decrease by about $160. The new rate will be seen in November's tax bills. 
The total tax levy to meet the town's obligations, including the $650,996 debt exclusion to pay for the Hoosac Valley High School project, is $11,358,454, or about $200,000 less than last fiscal year. The high school bond currently takes about $1.25 of the tax rate although that will continue to slowly decrease as it nears the payoff date in 2033.
"As far as my end goes, I think this fiscal year, we are in a very good fiscal shape," said Assessor Donna MacDonald in response to questions. "I think we are taking a turn, instead of our tax rate [going up] to see our tax rate going down. I think this is a start of something bigger for the town of Adams because some of the reason why we're able to bring the tax rate down is because of new growth." 
MacDonald pointed to the new Mobile gas station on the town's north end and four or five new houses being built along with numerous additions and garages.
"You can see that in the valuation," she pointed out on her chart as rising from $506,841,307 to $514,328,886 for the town's total value. "That means it gets spread out more and we can drop the tax rate." 
MacDonald said there were two major factors in the tax rate: reining in the budget and new growth. 
The town's nearly $7.5 million increase in value and a levy that has dropped by nearly $200,000 resulted in the reduction the tax rate. If the board had determined to go to a single tax rate — which hasn't been the case in many years — the rate for all properties would have been $22.08 per $1,000 assessed value. The tax rates for fiscal 2018 were $22.21 for residential and $25.54 for commercial. 
Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan said she thought the town's fiscal health has been strong for many years and town officials have made tough decisions along the way. 
"We got a message from this board for the past year that we really need to look harder and harder at the taxes and how do we trim the taxes," she said. "I think it was a good budget. ... We had some things go our way with health costs, education, transportation ... ."
The recent growth noted by MacDonald was key, she said. "We haven't seen this in many years. 
"We haven't had the housing starts that other communities have had. I hope it is a trend, it may be too early to tell. ... As this community does more to embrace tourism and to make investments in its local economy, I hope it continues."
Chairman John Duval said there has been a goal over the years to reduce the tax rate and in the past, that had been done at times by using free cash. Selectman Joseph Nowak described it as helping residents who had to bite the bullet to meet their tax obligations. But it wasn't a good practice to fall into, they agreed. 
Nowak said the board has been cognizant of the town's elderly and poor population and the need to continue to provide services. 
"It makes it really tough to try to keep everything going with making everybody happy," he said. "Each time we've tried as a board to cut things it's been really a push and pull with people. That's their right to do it but if you don't make cuts, you don't gain. I think we've made some cuts and we still are giving the services to the community the best way that we can."
In the past year, the board had created a budget committee that meets regularly with the town's financial staff to review spending. 
"We work together, we make decisions as we go, we monitor what's going on not just wait until the end of the year," Duval said. "The select board as a group has gotten involved more than we have, I believe, in the past."
The board needs to redouble its efforts to get growth in the community, he said, alluding to new opportunities that Cesan would be bringing forward. 
"We still have to be positive about this community and get more people to build houses, build additions, build their decks, and do renovations to their homes," Duval said. "It helps them and it helps all of us as a team here in Adams." 
In other business: 
Cesan reported that the bid for the Town Hall roof had been awarded to with Titan Roofing. The bid includes an alternative bid to repair the clock tower that is leaking. The tower repair is $47,000 and the roof, $163,000 for a total bid of $210,000. The company is expected to start as soon as possible. 
• Maxymillian Construction has begun emergency repairs on Glenn Street and East Road. Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. is providing the oversight. Those two roads are considered in the direst shape of those damaged by flooding last month. Cesan said an informative presentation is scheduled prior to the special town meeting to approve borrowing to address the damage. 
• Selectwoman Christine Hoyt reported that she and Cesan had participated in the tour of Hoosac Valley Elementary School on Wednesday with representatives from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The school was the final tour of the 28 schools selected by MSBA for preliminary review. 
• The board approved two separate host agreements — one for medical marijuana and one for adult recreational marijuana — with Mission Mass. The company has signed a long-term lease for 150 Howland Ave. and is expected to come before permitting authorities with plans in the near future.  
• The town is seeking donation of a Christmas tree for Spring Street for this holiday season.

Tags: property taxes,   tax classification,   

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Adams Historical Society Repairs Historic Chairs

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

The trustees also got an update on the progress on changing administrative control of the Miller Fund, discovered last year. 
ADAMS, Mass. — Furniture can get a little worn after 120 years. So members of the Adams Historical Society members have been tightening up the historic chairs still in use in Memorial Hall.
Library Director Holli Jayko told the trustees Thursday that volunteers are making their way through the dozens of antique chairs dating back to the 19th century and that are original to the building.
"They have been lovingly putting them back together and they are finding the ones that are kind of loose or coming apart," she said. "They are just going through and making them safe to sit in."
The library was completed in 1899 and the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall — one of the few left in the state — is located on the second floor. Trustees and Historical Society member Eugene Michalenko noted the chairs, that are still in use today, were once occupied by Civil War veterans at their GAR meetings. 
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