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Lanesborough Sets Tax Rate for Fiscal 2021

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The average homeowner will see their tax rate drop slightly but their tax bill will rise about $154 for fiscal 2021. 
The Board of Selectmen at Monday's tax classification hearing voted to keep a single tax rate that will result in a rate of $20.31 per $1,000 valuation, down from last year's rate of $20.68. 
Assessor Ross Vivori said the town had seen its total value rise to about $419 million, or up $13 million over last year. The largest increases were in residential value ($16,961,346) and personal property ($4,116,849).
These increases were offset loss of value on the commercial side of $7,742,886 and industrial of $16,000.
Selectman Michael Murphy asked if Vivori could explain the drop in commercial value. 
"My guess is that probably due to the mall," said Vivori. "I've only been here the last three weeks so I'm assuming that's due to the mall."
The Berkshire Mall has been closed for more than a year and the only entities operating on the site are Target and Regal Cinemas, both of which own their sections. Town Manager Kelli Robbins agreed with Vivori that the mall probably accounted for the bulk of the drop. The re-evaluation for the vacant shopping center had been approved by the Board of Assessors, she said. 
"The appraiser for Patriot [Properties] provided a report on the actual value of the mall and what it should be," she said. "They're required under the law to do fair cash value or fair market value and the board voted to adjust the value based on the report from the appraiser from Patriot."
The municipal appraisers had looked at similar properties in the region, including Upstate New York, in determining a value, board members said.  
While the mall made up the decline in commercial, local utilities were responsible for a lot of the uptick in personal property values.
Vivori explained that utilities like Berkshire Gas and Mass Electric are considered 504 properties. The state Department of Revenue had discovered that the utilities had not been reporting their net book value properly and, with a number of communities in the eastern part of the state, won a case against the utilities in the Supreme Judicial Court.
"Now we're being required to send them these new forms of lists, which has much more detail, for their net book value and apply a 50/50 valuation method," Vivori said. "So it doesn't really count as growth, but it does come in as increased value."
Most of the value in new growth came from residential properties, he said. 
"That's probably due to inspections, commercial is up slightly $951," he said. "But the big bump was in the personal property side of things for a total new growth -- based on last year's tax rate -- $153,996 in tax revenues."
The town has a maximum levy capacity of $9,967,793 but this year's levy will be $8,504,000, "which means you have excess capacity of a $1,460,297, and that's a good thing," Vivori said.
Robbins, who was participating in the virtual meeting without video, responded that "I wish you could see me smiling."
Murphy asked if it was generally predictable that increasing values would drive down rates. Vivori said mostly, although it was a little more complicated. 
"Assessments are like one part of a three-legged stool. You also have local receipts, which, depending on how those come in, if they're up or down, and what you need to run the town," he said. "But yeah, certainly, if all other things are level then yes, it does tend to drive that rate down."
The average value of a single-family home in Lanesborough is $240,896 so the average tax bill will be $4,892.60, or about $154 more than last year.
The Selectmen voted unanimously to approve the single tax rate, with Chairman John Goerlach and Gordon Hubbard voting "by necessity.
"Since we're voting at single rate, John and I are both business owners, and therefore there could be a benefit that we have for voting it that way," Hubbard explained to Murphy, who is in his first term. "But since we don't have a quorum ... we have to vote."
In other business, the board approved a road opening permit for Berkshire Gas at 171 Bull Hill Road. 

Tags: fiscal 2021,   tax classification,   tax rate,   

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Work To Connect Lanesborough Water Lines to Berkshire Village Underway

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — After many years with an independent water system, Berkshire Village is being connected to the Lanesborough water district and is undergoing infrastructure modernization.
"I am just so thankful to them, [the fire and water district] did a lot of the heavy lifting on this. They've done all the work with the USDA, and we've been included every step of the way," Berkshire Co-Operative President Lori DiLego said. "They went to bat for us in many different areas."
This was made possible by advocacy work done by the Lanesborough Village Fire and Water District for Berkshire Co-Operative Water Works, which resulted in the village receiving $2,395,200 from the United States Department of Agriculture to extend the main.
Construction began last week and includes the installation of wider pipes that will provide better water pressure to residents in the village.  Road construction is projected to end by December and properties will be hooked up to the new main in the spring of 2022.
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