ADAMS, Mass. — If the town sticks with a split tax rate at the same shift as this year, residents could be looking at a 49 cent increase over this year’s rate.
Assessor Donna MacDonald went over possible tax rate scenarios for fiscal 2020 at the Selectmen's workshop on Wednesday. The board will vote on the tax classifications next week.
MacDonald said the total amount to be raised for the fiscal 2020 budget is $16,083,959. Subtracting estimated receipts of $5,054,868 brings this amount to $11,029,090. Debt exclusion has been pulled out of this number.
Dividing this by the total valuation of $516,763,257 sets a single tax rate of $22.60. Last year’s single tax rate would have been $22.08.
But last year, the Selectmen approved a split rate with a shift factor of 115 percent. This translated to a residential rate of $21.39 and a commercial rate of $25.40. If this same shift is set, the town would be looking at a residential rate of $21.88 and a commercial rate of $25.99.
MacDonald went through other shifts and said a 110 percent shift would be a residential rate of $22.12 and a commercial rate of $24.86. A 120 percent shift would be $21.64 and a commercial rate of $27.13.
She only listed shifts up to 130 percent and said the town should tread lightly shifting any further.
"I only went up to 130 percent because if you go any higher than that for sure that would really hurt businesses," she said. "I don't see us hurting them like that."
MacDonald said she was not particularly happy about new growth because it is lagging behind the three-year average. New residential growth was $695,000; the three-year average is $1.6 million. Commercial growth was $228,000; the three-year average is $460,000.
"It comes down to we need growth in this community and without it, housing stock is starting to lower," Selectman Joespah Nowak said. "The future doesn't look all that bright at this present time."
MacDonald said new builds would help but maybe even more importantly the town has to fill vacant buildings. She said filling up Park Street with businesses would do a lot of good in Adams.
She added that blight also worsens the situation and a few decrepit homes can really bring down the value of a neighborhood.
"We have several streets that are having a difficult time and you can see it," she said. "If you have one house that is in disrepair among 10 beautiful houses, it will maybe hurt but if there are three in a row that is a different story."
She said people are having a hard time selling homes above value in the Route 8 corridor. Conversely, properties on the outskirts of town are selling above assessed value.
Town Administrator Jay Green looked at the growth numbers differently and said things are still trending positive.
"I see that it is lagging but when you look at the numbers that way it does show that we still have some growth," he said. "We may not have what we want but as I broke down these numbers, the takeaway is that we still have some level of growth."
MacDonald agreed and said there are people moving into town. She said word seems to be getting out that people can afford a good house in Adams that they can also afford to improve.
This summer has been really positive and homes have been selling above assessment, she said.
Green said in his six months as town administrator he has noticed the same thing.
"Adams is very attractive to those who want to come move here and I think we are moving in the right direction," he said. "We just need a little more of a push on that housing side to make it more attractive ... we are a hidden gem."
The tax classification hearing will be held Wednesday.
The Selectmen did ask MacDonald her opinion on the town's initiative to adopt 40R but she was hesitant to respond without conducting more research.
The Planning Board voted earlier this summer to continue a hearing on the adoption of 40R, an initiative to help communities create dense, residential, mixed-use zoning districts with a certain percentage of affordable housing units in existing city and town centers.
Many residents came out opposed to the overlay and town leadership felt there was a general lack of understanding of 40R that lead to a more argumentative meeting.
Green said the town will hold a public information session on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the visitors center at 6 p.m. to educate people on all that is 40R.
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