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WVN Newsletter #196: Timely new tax tool

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, Selectman Alan Reiss new Unofficial Wayland Real Estate Tax Calculator has the potential to provide data that will improve political
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 7, 2007
      Dear 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.


      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


      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
      underlying data
      * Review of major impacts and
      proposed mitigation

      8 4.) Peer review comments and review memorandum
      from TEC
      * Opinion on conformance of
      submitted report with MSP regulation
      * Assessment of methodology and
      underlying data

      8:30 5.) Discussion of Town Center development traffic
      * Route 27 access
      * Major intersection findings and
      proposed mitigation
      * Neighborhood road impacts and
      proposed mitigation

      10 6.) Next steps

      10:30 Adjourn


      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
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