209WVN Newsletter #196: Timely new tax tool
- Jan 7, 2007Dear Wayland Voter,
Selectman Alan Reiss' new "Unofficial Wayland Real Estate Tax
Calculator" has the potential to provide data that will improve
political discourse and decision-making about property taxes,
overrides and the fairness of assessments.
VALUABLE NEW TOOL FOR TAXPAYERS
About the time you received your latest property tax bill, the
Boston Globe and WGBH-TV singled out Wayland for special
mention among cities and towns facing double-digit increases.
Coincidentally, Selectman Alan Reiss has released a computer
tool that makes it easier than ever for you to analyze tax
increases over the years, not only for your property, but for most
single family residential parcels in Wayland.
This puts a wealth of information in the hands of taxpayers and
makes it more difficult for partisans to engage in the sort of
emotional and factually deficient campaigning we saw before the
override vote last spring.
At www.AJReiss.com you'll find a prominent link to the tool. Do
you wonder about a particular property? The cumulative
increases in your neighborhood or other neighborhoods? The
highest-assessed or lowest-assessed properties? Whether you
are paying more than your fair share of taxes? The user-friendly
calculator will give you data you need. By the way, if you believe
you're overtaxed, you have until Feb. 1 to file for an abatement.
Before the latest override passed with a 55 percent majority,
Finance Committee members condemned arguments by the
anti-override group RSVP, saying that only the median
cumulative tax increase provided a legitimate snapshot of the
figures. WaylandeNews repeated the FinCom argument and
indicated that RSVP might have violated state laws prohibiting
false information in political campaigns. (Later, Reiss was
instrumental in showing that the FinCom was incorrect.) WVN
suggested that taxpayers ignore statistics and calculate how
much their own taxes had risen. For many, that wasn't easy to
do. The new tax calculator makes it easy.
While voters were pondering the override amid a barrage of
claims, counter-claims and accusations of scare tactics and
demagoguery, another problem caused by lack of information
was apparent. Wayland's assessors were dealing with more
than 400 applications for tax abatements, perhaps 10 times the
average number for towns this size. A former member of the
Board of Assessors, Marcia Malmfeldt, raised the possibility that
there was no assurance of equity because assessors lacked
adequate tools and procedures. She and other assessors had
argued unsuccessfully at the 2005 annual Town Meeting for
improvements. The FinCom and the Board of Selectmen
opposed the warrant article.
Armed with accurate and comprehensive figures, taxpayers will
be in a better position to evaluate the effectiveness of local
government and make informed voting decisions.
Reiss says he welcomes comments and suggestions about the
tax calculator. WVN is also interested in what you find and what
you think. Please let us know If you detect anomalies,
inaccurate information, patterns where there should be none or
no pattern where there should be one (for example, two
properties that appear to be virtually identical but are assessed
much differently). Some readers have already told us that
assessors' basic description of their houses is incorrect. So
the starting point might be to be sure you're not being assessed
for a room or an improvement that doesn't exist.
-- Michael Short
TOWN CENTER TRAFFIC MEETING
Wednesday Jan. 10. 7 p.m., Town Building, special meeting of
the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Road Commissioners
to discuss consultants' reports on the potential traffic impact of
the town center project planned for Route 20. Here is the
7 p.m. 1.) Announcements. Review Agenda Items with the Public
7:05 2.) Public Comment
7:25 3.) Presentation of Town Center development team traffic
* Summarize methodology and
* Review of major impacts and
8 4.) Peer review comments and review memorandum
* Opinion on conformance of
submitted report with MSP regulation
* Assessment of methodology and
8:30 5.) Discussion of Town Center development traffic
* Route 27 access
* Major intersection findings and
* Neighborhood road impacts and
10 6.) Next steps
The Board of Selectmen seeks residents interested in being
appointed to a vacancy on the Board of Road Commissioners.
the seat will be contested at the April 2007 town election. Contact
Town Administrator Fred Turkington
(fturkington@...) for details. See
www.wayland.ma.us for a complete list of vacancies.
Since this newsletter is largely about assessments, please note
that in April three seats on the Board of Assessors will be at
stake. The term of one of the three members is expiring and two
new positions approved by voters will be added.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor