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WVN #250: Higher landfill fee, new assessment method

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, When the town landfill reaches capacity soon, waste will be hauled away rather than buried here. Service will continue as usual, officials
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 16, 2008
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      When the town landfill reaches capacity soon, waste will be hauled away rather than buried here. Service will continue as usual, officials say. But one noticeable change will be a 31 percent price increase.

      Also in this newsletter:

      -- The assessors are introducing a a new way of calculating property tax assessments. Molly Upton reports.

      --Talks continue over the selectmen's initiative to control WayCAM, the town's community access cable channel.

      NEW FEES FOR TRANSFER STATION

      With the town landfill closing, residents who dump their trash at the landfill (soon to be transfer station) will have to pay $320 for an annual sticker, up from $245, reflecting the additional costs of paying an outside firm for trucking and depositing trash
      elsewhere.

      The Board of Health determined the facility's operation and user fees at its meeting May 28.

      The good news is that the transfer station will still have its usual amenities of electronics disposal, the book swap and the drop-off-and-pick-up areas.

      The new rates take effect July 1. The fee for an additional vehicle is $40, the senior rate (age 65) is $195, and a recycling-only sticker will cost $25.

      Several residents spoke passionately to the Board about the landfill and its staff, calling the landfill the "real town center."

      The Board selected what it called the least expensive option of contracting with an outside firm for disposal and operating the transfer station with fewer employees. The staff size hasn't been determined.

      The town will not need to buy the new truck authorized by the spring Town Meeting. Under a one-year contract the national firm Waste Management is expected to be paid $224,000.

      Many other towns use the `pay to throw' system in which residents pay according to the number of disposal bags they buy. This was not possible to implement now, given that the Board of Health did not decide on the operation of the transfer station
      until the end of May.

      Several members mentioned that this scheme "provides flexibility" for when the Department of Public Works, approved at April Town Meeting, comes into existence.

      The board discussed whether the new fee would cause residents to elect a private curbside pickup service. You can watch the Board of Health discussion of the landfill. One or more of the following applications should operate with your equipment.

      Your suggestions are welcome.

      This is for Quicktime...http://www.waylandmass.us/BoH/BoHlandfill_transition060308.mp4
      This is for Windows Media Player...http://www.waylandmass.us/BoH/BoHlandfill_transition060308.wmv
      This is for Flash Player...http://www.waylandmass.us/BoH/BoHlandfill_transition060308.swf


      CLEAN SLATE GOAL FOR ASSESSMENT METHODS

      Vision Appraisal, the firm hired by the Wayland Board of Assessors to implement a revaluation program, told the Board its methodology is wiping clean the past ways of doing assessments.

      According to Vision's website, "A Revaluation is the process of performing all of the necessary Market Analysis and Valuation steps to determine accurate and equitable values for all properties within a municipality. The equalization of the values within a
      City or Town creates a fair distribution of the tax burden. The purpose of a Revaluation is not to raise taxes. The purpose is to create an equitable distribution of the tax load."

      The state requires revaluation every three years.

      The Board of Assessors plans to inform the public about the new system in newspaper articles, the town website and inserts in tax bills.

      In late summer or early fall, informal hearings will give residents the chance to question the accuracy of the new information on their property.

      Information on the revaluation process may be found at "http://data.visionappraisal.com/TaxpayerInfo/" http://data.visionappraisal.com/TaxpayerInfo/.

      Vision Appraisal, which also supplies the current software, has met with the state Department of Revenue to explain its methodology, which it has used in other towns. The DOR seemed pleased, according to Ken Rogers, project manager for Vision
      Appraisal.

      VALUATIONS DETERMINE RATE

      Given the rising tax rate, ensuring accuracy in one's property record card becomes critical. Assuming no change in value in the town's collective real estate, the tax rate for next year will be $16.02 per thousand dollars. This could change once the
      assessors establish values.

      Although the methodology is new to Wayland, and appears more straight-forward than the previous system, accuracy cannot be assured unless the underlying data on homes and property are correct.

      One WVN reader suggested the assessors should enclose existing property record cards with the tax bill to give residents an opportunity to correct the information. In any case, residents may review their record cards at the assessors' office and point out
      discrepancies.

      There is more information on the record card at the assessors' office than on the website or the library.

      Wayland's assessors were doing their own quality assurance program before starting cyclical inspections (inspecting a certain percentage of dwellings each year) and revaluation. As part of the process, there will be a "drive-by" inspection of all Wayland
      properties.

      LAND

      Land will now be valued as base lot, excess land, or wetlands. The land value will be adjusted by other factors such as the site index and condition factor. There will be six site indices or "market areas."

      The site index takes the place of the former 82 neighborhoods and should eliminate the unending frustration that occurred when adjacent properties were valued differently because they were in different zoning areas, say 40,000 square feet and 60,000
      square feet.

      In addition to axing the use of zoning, the condition factors attached separately to land are gone. Such factors as traffic now will be included in the site index assigned.

      The categories of site index are: high density traffic; fair (heavily traveled); average; above average; good location; very good location.

      The values for excess land and wetlands are being evaluated. These can be adjusted for factors such as topography, shape, right of way, and easements.

      The residential value starts with an adjusted cost per square foot that includes the size, grade of construction, number of bedrooms (i.e. 2 or fewer or more than 2) and factors such as the number of bathrooms and fireplaces, plus garage. This is
      combined with a depreciation adjustment (condition and age) to arrive at the building value.

      The next assessments will be based on data from the approximately 125 sales in 2007.

      Responding to a query from Assessor Susan Rufo about allowing for variations caused by the month of a sale in 2007, Vision said there appeared to be an average decline of $3,000 per month, but rather than adjusting the price for the month suggested
      the percentage of full value could be lowered for the town as a whole. The town is currently at 98 percent of full value, and towns are allowed a 10 percent leeway by the state. Several peer towns are not as fully valued.

      There was some discussion of how to value vacant lots. Currently the town has a category, 1310, which is "potentially buildable." Vision was leaning towards making these either unbuildable or buildable.

      The cyclical review of inspections of about 1,200 homes and condos is on schedule, though condo inspections were delayed by questions involving master deeds. The cyclical review must be done by June 27. The Board emphasized that the more homes
      inspected, the greater the accuracy.



      WAYCAM, SELECTMEN STILL APART

      The board of directors of Wayland Community Access Media (WayCAM) expressed concern at a recent meeting about the Board of Selectmen's apparent intent to dictate the composition of its board and expenditure of its funds.

      Town Administrator Fred Turkington later reported to the selectmen that in his discussions with WayCAM the sticking point seemed to be the selectmen's request for more seats on the board. This raises questions about what constitutes town control and
      the town's interest. Is the public better served by an independent board that elects members from the general population or by a board dominated by appointees of town officials? Should the selectmen control the board that broadcasts their meetings?

      The Board of Selectmen wants WayCAM to add two appointees to the present seven-member board, one from the BoS and one from the schools. With the present appoinaoadcasts meetings of the BoS and other boards and committees, produces a variety
      of local programming and is expected to train up to 100 Wayland High School students in the coming year.

      TOWN WITHHOLDS PAYMENT

      In addition to additional board positions, the selectmen want an additional $8,000 provided by WayCAM to the schools, and is holding Verizon funds "pending resolution of the composition of the WayCAM board of directors and oversight of the WayCAM
      budget and expenditures in the memorandum of agreement (MOA) to be drafted."

      Betsy Moyer, past chair of WayCAM, observed, "I feel it's very important for the health of WayCAM and the Board of Selectmen to keep arms length and not dictate details of operation." The WayCAM board pointed out that expanding the size of its board
      would require a change in its bylaws rather than instruction from the Board of Selectmen.

      In addition, Moyer and School Superintendent Gary Burton had previously agreed to wait until Fiscal Year 2010 before disbursing "at least" $8,000, and hopefully more.

      WayCAM chair Ken Isaacson cited a national publication for local stations that stressed the importance of talent on boards, rather than the composition, per se. An article in Community Media Review's winter issue recommends appointments and
      elections to boards such as WayCAM using a variety of mechanisms to protect against undue control by any one group. The article notes that "in many cases, when nonprofit community access media organizations have failed, it has been because of this
      issue."

      Jane Stabile, WayCAM treasurer, countered BoS accusations that WayCAM was engaging in negative spending. She explained that the station is spending down some of its accumulated cash, adding that the role of a nonprofit is not to sit on a pile of cash
      but to use it for the designated purpose.

      In the meantime, WayCAM pointed to the production of 122 programs this school year by WayCAM and the students in its TV production classes.

      WayCAM Chair Isaacson commented, "Talks between WayCAM and the Town are ongoing and cordial at this time, and hopefully will continue so, with all issues resolved soon."
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
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