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Cheshire Stays With Single Tax Rate

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday voted to stay with a single property tax rate for fiscal 2021. 
According to calculations presented to the board, this would make the tax rate about $13.38 per $1,000 valuation, but Board of Assessors Chairwoman Barbara Astorino cautioned they were not setting a rate but rather classification. 
"This is not a set tax rate. So don't base on this tax rate. Until all of the documents go in and the state reviews everything ... You don't have a set tax rate," she said during the tax classification hearing. 
Her statements came after a discussion about splitting the rate to shift more of the tax burden to the commercial and industrial side. Cheshire has historically maintained a single tax rate.
Astorino said savings for residential taxpayers in that scenario wouldn't be that great — $35 to $173 depending on the split — while businesses could see their bills rise by thousands. She gave an example of one large commercial venture that would see its bill jump anywhere from $4,600 to $23,000 for commercial and personal property.
"So splitting the tax rate would have a huge impact on the few commercials you have in town," she said, noting it would also affect utilities.
Selectmen Robert Ciskowski asked if she was trying to protect businesses because it seemed she was minimizing the impact it would have on residential properties. 
"I really got that impression and you're entitled to your opinion," he said. "Businesses generate money, houses provide places people live, but they also they generally generate money.
"I don't know many Cheshire households that probably aren't being affected by the economic situation we're in."
Astorino said she wasn't recommending one over the other but was making the board aware of its options and what it would mean to commercial entitites. 
Selectman Ron DeSantis pointed out that businesses can pass on any increases in taxes to the consumer — or move out. 
Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi said she could consider splitting the tax rate at some point down the road but not now. 
"Given the current economic status, the shift that businesses have taken, I would have a hard time splitting the tax rate this year," she said.
The board also queried Astorino about assessments and what the affect recent sales over appraisals would have on the tax rate calculations. They also threw out a number of scenarios and what would happen in those cases. 
She explained any sales this year would not count until next year and that there are fairly straightforward criteria for assessing based on square footage, condition and comparative sales. The figures are also reviewed and adjusted by the state, she said.
"I don't think it's fair that we should try and answer a 'what-if down the road should happen' because things change," Astorino said. 
The total value of the town is calculated at $330,634,102; the amount to be raised by taxation $4,423,884. Of that, 89.6 percent will come from residential and 10.5 percent from commercial, industrial and personal property properties.  
The excessive levy capacity this year is $27,758.71. Last year's excess capacity was $31,594.60. 
The board voted 4-1 to remain with the single tax rate with Ciskowski the lone no vote. 

Tags: fiscal 2021,   tax classification,   

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