ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen approved a split tax rate on Wednesday that will drop the residential tax rate and also likely lessen the tax burden on commercial properties.
The board on Wednesday voted for a shift of 20 percent more to the commercial side. This sets the residential rate at $21.03 per $1,000 evaluation, down $1.59 from last year, and commercial rate at $26.34, down 55 cents.
But residential property owners will still see an increase in their tax bill while commercial/industrial owners may see actually see a decrease.
"We're going to determine the tax shift. We do not determine the tax rates," said Chairman John Duval. "The board does not do that. That is done by formulas and budgets that are approved by town meeting and the assessments, and the growth."
Assessor Paula Wheeler provided the board with the tax impact ranging from a single rate up to a 30 percent shift.
The figures are based on the value of an average single-family this year of $166,000, up from $149,000 last year. Getting an average business value is difficult because of a number of factors, so Wheeler pulled out one business, valued at $674,000, to use as an example.
The average homeowner would see a $121 increase in their tax bill of $3,491; the business selected, a $290 decrease on its bill of $17,753.
"The raise in evaluations this year has to do with the extreme single-family home sales," Wheeler said, that bumped up residential property values by 10 percent.
On the other hand, commercial properties didn't do as well during the pandemic, keeping their values flat or down by about one percent.
A single tax rate, which the town hasn't had since 1991, would be $21.95; this would translate to a residential tax bill increase of about $274 and a reduction in commercial of $3,249.
The shift has ranged from 10 percent to 30 percent but has been at about 15 percent for the past decade.
Selectman Howard Rosenberg suggested raising it to 20 percent this year.
"I think one of the aims is to reduce the tax burden on single-family homes because they took a 10 percent hit in equity value, increase in valuation, where businesses did not have that increase," said Rosenberg. "So therefore the shift makes a great deal of sense to keep it equitable."
Duval said he was considering 25 percent but thought the 20 percent was an agreeable compromise.
"Over the years the residential, I believe that they're carrying a heavy burden of the tax rate compared to other communities around us," he said. "I was thinking maybe 25 percent shift factor, but I can live with the 20 percent factor.
At 25 percent, the tax rates would be $20.80 for residential (an $83 increase) and $27.44 for commercial (a $452 increase on the sample business).
Selectman Joseph Nowak said he was concerned that higher taxes would deter apartment building owners from making more significant investments in their properties.
"There are some good ones, but many of them, just keep their properties well enough to be able to put occupants in it," he said. "And then if their taxes do go up, they're usually pushed down to the person that rents the property. ...
"Once again, this is agonizing for me but I know as a community that we need to have the services, and if the tax rate is so where we have to really bite the bullet, we're going to lose more town employees."
Businesses can take advantage of tax breaks not available to homeowners and have less of a turnover of than residential, Town Administrator Jay Green said. "Look at what the impact is on the homeowner versus the impact of business because the business is frankly able to absorb a little bit more of the hit."
The difficulty is in deciding what the tipping point is, he said.
The board members agreed that attracting business would help the tax base and that Adams' tax rate is "very reasonable" compared to many other communities.
George Haddad, a member of the board when the split rate was first adopted and a longtime businessman, said it had been kept close to the single rate to be as fair as possible. He didn't see the tax rate as being deleterious to business.
Green said tax rates don't usually come into play when talking with potential businesses. Rather a complex set of issues around parking, transportation, services and building needs play a greater role.
The vote was unanimous; Selectmen Richard Blanchard and Christine Hoyt were absent.
In other business, the board approved Timothy Sorrell as a special police officer. Sorrell, the retired police chief of Lanesborough, has 33 years of law enforcement experience. Chief K. Scott Kelley, Green and board members lauded Sorrell's experience and professionalism.
"To bring someone with his experience, and he wants to come to Adams, not only his professional skill set ... so I can't say enough about him," said Kelley. "I'm just happy to present him to you guys."
Sorrell will bring the number of part-time special officers to three; they provide traffic control, cover the desk and events, and similar duties. Sorrell's son, Nicholas, is a full-time officer in Adams but Kelley said this is not an issue since Sorrell will not be in a supervisory position.
Special police officers are paid a rate of $17.31 an hour.
• The board, acting as the licensing board, approved a transfer of an all-alcoholic package store license and inventory, and license pledge, from Mazvar Inc. to Mahant Oasis Liquor Inc., both doing business as Oasis Liquor Store, 35 Spring St.
Oasis has been owned by Michael Mazzeo of Pittsfield since 2019; new owner and manager Raj Patel, who also owns Cheshire Liquor Center, said the 3,500 square foot building is in good condition and that he plans only some minor improvements. The owners family had worked in the store so he will be hiring a few people to replace them. Patel said he owned a gas station and convenience store in Albany, N.Y., for 20 years before shifting to the Berkshires.
The board also approved a one-day liquor license for Bounti-fare to serve from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 10, at the Visitors Center for Ramblefest.
• It also approved National Grid and Verizon's application to move a pole on Powers Street that had been hit and damaged by a truck with the condition the new pole have a sidewalk-style guide wire.
• The town is seeking an Adams representative to the Cultural Council of the Northern Berkshires. Letters of interest can be sent to Town Hall and an appointment will be made in October.
Correction: the amount the tax rates would change from last year was originally given incorrectly. These have been changed to the correct numbers.
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Adams Altering Two Precincts to Reflect Changes in Population
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen last week voted to alter Precincts 2 and 3 to better match population. This won't change the number of town meeting members but it will change the voting precinct for one.
Town Clerk Haley Meczywor presented new Census data to the board Wednesday and said with a decrease of 299 residents over a 10-year period, the state has recommended that the town change the borders of the two precincts.
"In order to make our precincts as equal as possible, the state is recommended that we make a minor change from Precinct 3 to Precinct 2," she said.
The last Census was done in 2010. Then, the population count was 8,485. In 2020, the count was 8,166 — a 299 decrease.
After an executive session Wednesday, the board voted to award Jay Hayes of Wayland North the project that will convert the former middle school's classroom wing into one and two-bedroom apartments.
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