CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Property owners got an early Christmas present this week in the form of unanticipated state revenues that are expected to significantly drop the tax rate.
The new numbers from the state Department of Revenue were received just hours before Tuesday afternoon's tax classification hearing.
Assessor Ross Vivori said the numbers should translate to about a $2 drop on the tax rate.
"A lot of information for whatever reason seems to be coming out late — state budget numbers, state aid numbers, so forth and so on," he told the Select Board. "And so just literally earlier today, we got some revised numbers which change the amount that we're levying to."
The increased state aid reduces the amount the town must levy to cover its expenses by $147,809 — from $2,237,759 to $2,089,950.
This translates into a single, anticipated tax rate of $15.82 per $1,000 valuation from last year's $17.89.
Select Board Chairman Ronald Boucher said the change in the revenue picture was because the town had budgeted very conservatively for fiscal 2021 based on expectations that state funding would be cut because of the ongoing pandemic.
"We budgeted this past year for a loss of state aid with anticipation with everything going on," he said. "Everything came back a lot higher than we anticipated. We figured for the worst and, in a rare occasion, it came out on the good side so that we're able to give back to the residents of the town."
The Legislature earlier in the fall had pledged to keep funding at least level to last year. The delayed budget that was passed last month was $46 billion, up about 5.5 percent over last fiscal year.
Vivori said this was also a recertification year for the town with a "much deeper dive" into sales and data. The analysis found that the town's overall value has increased, from $123,947,338 to $132,099,140, or nearly 6 percent.
Residential values increased by $8,971,900, from $116,884,000 to $125,855,900; commercial values rose from $898,478 to $1,099,478, or $201,000; and industrial rose $38,300, from $1,276,300 to $1,314,600.
Personal property came down a little bit, but the changed taxing process for utilities meant that the amount from them went up.
There was not a lot of new growth, Vivori reported, with only about $8,700 in residential, which translates to about $156 in taxes based on last year's rate.
"Based on the new amount that we're levying, we've increased our excess capacity," he said. "In the previous packet the excess capacity was at $57,707. And now, based on the new levy amount, it's $205,448. So that's a pretty significant increase, which is good news."
The value of a single-family home at $184,193.17 was determined by dividing the total value of those homes, or $113,278,800, by the number of single-family homes, 615.
"That means the average tax bill now is going to go to $2,913.94, which is basically $102.96 decrease or 3.41 percent," Vivori said.
The board voted unanimously to continue a single tax rate, anticipated to be $15.82.
"It could change slightly but it's a nice little present to town residents, considering it's been a tough year for everyone with COVID all the different sacrifices families had to make," Boucher said. "I think it's a nice way to say Merry Christmas everybody ...
"Next year will be a different story, it will probably be going up to be very honest."
In other business, the board voted to send a letter offering the post of town accountant to Angela Garrity, who had been recommended for the job by a screening committee. The offer includes the current accountant's wage of $17,357; Boucher suggested tying in a 2.5 percent increase at six months but members Danielle Luchi and Allen Arnold preferred revisiting in six months without a set amount.
"I think to review in six months makes sense," said Arnold. "She's coming from the outside, is she going to like the job, is she going to stick with the job, just see how it goes from there."
• The board also accepted the resignation letter of Town Accountant Donna Estes, who is stepping down on Dec. 30. Estes was hired in 2016 after retiring as Williamstown's town accountant.
"I just want to thank that for her commitment to the town and her time here," said Boucher. "She's done a great, great job."
• The board also voted to close Town Hall for half days on Wednesdays Dec. 23 and 30, and close the full day on Thursdays Dec. 24 and 31.
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