Adams Lowers Tax Rates But Bills Likely to Rise

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen approved a split tax classification with a 130 percent tax shift onto commercial property for fiscal 2023.
The residential tax rate will drop by $1.95 but the average tax bill for homeowners is expected to increase by $93.86 because of higher property valuations.  21.03
With the shift, a 10 percent increase from last year, the average residential tax bill is $3,561.60 with a $18.55 rate per $1,000 of assessed value. The commercial tax rate will be $25.65 per $1,000, a $2.49 decrease from FY2022.
"This wasn't easy to to go with the shift of 130 percent," said Vice Chair Cristine Hoyt, who thinks this split will help out residential properties. "It's still a lower tax rate for both residential and commercial."
Total new growth in town was $6,959,746, a 1.88 percent increase, while the average single-family home value is $192,000, a $26,000 increase from last year. The total town value was $652,770,504, a 14.3 percent increase.
Town Administrator Jay Green said this growth is evidence of the increased activity in town. The town's total levy amount is $12,876,875, a 2.7 percent increase, which Green said primarily comes from fixed costs.
"We know that there's been improvements in the town of Adams, we know that there's been growth, you can tangentially see it when new businesses open up, you can feel it. However, this is the first time that we have empirical data in front of us that actually shows new growth," he said. "... I think town staff has done well. These are good numbers that show our community is improving."
Selectman Joseph Nowak said he decided on the 130 percent shift to help homeowners in the current economy. He said commercial properties have more options than homeowners to deal with higher taxes.
"My vote, I think, will be to help the residential people because they have no recourse," he said.
Selectman Howard Rosenberg, the only dissenting vote to the 130 percent shift, said he would have done 125 percent instead. He noted the extra 5 percent has a much higher cost-impact on commercial bills when compared residential.
New to this year, bills will include taxes collected by the town on behalf of the Adams Fire District for fire protection and street lighting. The Prudential Committee adopted a single tax rate of $0.91 per $1,000 value to collect its levy of $502,354.
Green explained that aside from the method, collections from the Fire District will not drastically change for those living within its borders. The tax bills for those living in the district, he said, will contain a cover letter detailing the new collection process.
"It does not affect the town budget, it does not affect the amount of tax you pay the town of Adams," Green said. "The town of Adams is nothing more than a pass-through, a collector, for the Fire District.
The change resulted from a class-action lawsuit last year against the district. A Superior Court judge found the district did not have the authority to charge for anything other than water, according to an 1873 act by the Legislature.
Nowak wanted to clarify for residents that the issue with the district's collections has nothing to do with the current commissioners.
"What had happened with the Adams Prudential Committee and the Adams Fire District was well before any of the present members or anyone else were on the board. This is something that happened many years ago," he said.

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North County Communities Close to Hiring Shared HR Director

By Brian Rhodes

ADAMS, Mass. — The town is close to picking a candidate for a grant-funded human resources director, which will split time between Adams, North Adams and Williamstown. 


The Board of Selectmen's Personnel Sub-committee met on Monday to discuss the position and several other personnel matters. In March, the three communities received a $100,000 grant from the state's Community Compact Cabinet Efficiency and Regionalization program to fund the position


Town Administrator Jay Green said two candidates were interviewed for the job, with expectations to make a formal offer to one of them soon, pending final approval from officials in North Adams. 


"It's going to be a large undertaking for whoever is in the job. But I think, at the end of the day, we will provide the communities with somebody paying attention to this stuff," Green said. "... I think a lot of the retention and recruitment issues; all three communities have those issues. So all three communities are looking forward to having the person to be able to work on that." 


Green said each of the three communities has specific needs that a human resources director will provide. For Adams, he explained that keeping the town's human resources policies up to date is a significant need. 


"This person will work for us directly, and they will be a resource for us," Green said. The three communities, he explained, have to keep the position funded until at least Fiscal Year 2024. 


In other business, the group discussed preliminary job descriptions for an assistant Treasurer/Collector and assistant Town Accountant. These positions would replace the current financial assistant titles and would be a title and job description change rather than a personnel change. 


"We have too many high-level people doing too low-level work because we're not staffed enough in that level," Green said, noting the town expects the title changes to be ready to begin the next fiscal year. "A lot of those positions have been eliminated over the years. The work doesn't go away, but the work just gets kicked up." 


Town Accountant Crystal Wojcik said the new titles would allow the people in those positions to have more training opportunities and take on more responsibilities for the town. One example she gave is a conference from the state's Municipal Accountants and Auditors Association, which Financial Assistant Ashley Satko cannot currently attend. 


"I can go to that, but Ashley can't because her title is not Assistant Town Accountant," she said. "You either have to be a Town Accountant or an Assistant Town Accountant. I believe the same rules go for the treasurer's association." 


Another new position the group discussed was assistant director of Community Development. Rebecca Furgeson, the current program manager for the department, would take on the new role. 


"[Rebecca] has a very unique skill set with project management that I can't replicate. And she has capacity to take on additional work," said Community Development Director Eammon Coughlin. "We've had incredibly good luck with grants over the past year. I think we've gotten basically everything we've apply for it, and so there's a need to have a good set of eyes and sound judgment in terms of managing those projects." 


The committee also discussed the part-time administrative assistant for Inspectional Services. Green said he is hopeful the position could eventually become full-time, but budget considerations do not currently allow it.  


  • The committee discussed a potential code of conduct for town employees and others involved in town business. Board Vice-chair Christine Hoyt said she researched conduct policies for other communities and wants to do more work to update those policies in Adams. 


"I'd like to explore this more and come forward with a code of conduct that is all-encompassing," she said. "... We hold our employees to a standard, but we haven't necessarily put a standard of conduct in place for elected officials for the public." 


Green said the current provisions for the town only apply to town employees, not elected or other officials.


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