City & Town Archives JulyAugust by cli12236


                                               A Publication of the Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services

Alan LeBovidge

Gerard D. Perry
Deputy Commissioner    Town                                                                                          Volume 17, No. 7 July/August 2004

Interim Year Adjustment Reporting                                                                                                    by Joanne Graziano
In accordance with statute, assess-           commissioner’s requirement of 90–110          should be conducted to test the effects
ments must reflect full and fair cash         percent. In addition, some forms were         of the adjustments. The final statistical
value annually as of January 1 (M.G.L.        submitted that did not meet the statisti-     studies should comply with the certifi-
Ch. 59, Sec. 2A). Changes due to new          cal requirements.                             cation guidelines.
construction, renovations, demolitions,
                                              With property values skyrocketing for a       Assessors are required to review the in-
lot splits, etc. should be reflected annu-
                                              majority of the communities in the            come approach for income producing
ally in the tax assessment. In addition,
                                              state, interim year adjustments remove        properties. More often than not, there
market changes must be addressed
                                              the dreaded sticker shock that occurs         are not enough arms length sales for the
and assuming the community is not in
                                              when only triennial reappraisal pro-          commercial and industrial (C&I) class to
a certification year, this is done through
                                              grams are conducted. Interim year ad-         make a determination for an interim year
interim year adjustments.
                                              justments will reduce the inequities that     adjustment. Assessors should review
Beginning in FY2005, the Bureau of            occur with market changes and should          and analyze the rents, expense ratios,
Local Assessment is requiring that the        also reduce taxpayer complaints and           vacancy rates, and capitalization rates
communities not in their triennial recerti-   conserve overlay account funds.               being applied to the current assess-
fication year report to the bureau the                                                      ments to see if they are still applicable to
                                              Assessors that are unfamiliar with con-
Interim Year Adjustment Report. This is                                                     the market. At the bottom of the report,
                                              ducting an interim year adjustment re-
an annual requirement for all assessors.                                                    the assessor is required to answer a
                                              view are concerned about the amount of
This one-page report summarizes the                                                         few questions relating to the C&I class.
                                              time required to complete the analysis
median assessment sales ratio and co-
                                              and the impact it will have on their staff.   The final step for filling out the Interim
efficient of dispersion for the major state
                                              While this may be a concern, the interim      Year Adjustment Report is to have the
property classes for the calendar year.
                                              year adjustment review should not be          board of assessors sign and date the
The statistics must conform to require-
                                              considered a full revaluation program.        form. The majority of the board of as-
ments as outlined in the “Guidelines to
                                                                                            sessors’ signatures are required to en-
a Minimum Reassessment Program —              Many of the steps required for an in-
section III B.” The form is available on      terim year review are already in place        continued on page ten

the Automated Tax Rate Recap Pro-             as part of the assessors’ annual routine
gram, located on the Division of Local        maintenance. Annually, all assessors
Services website (          identify their arms length and non-arms       Inside This Issue
The report should be submitted to the         length sales. Assessors and their field       From the Deputy Commissioner . . . . . . . . . . . 2
bureau with the Form LA-4, Assess-            staff review the sales in the field to en-    Legal
ment/Classification Report.                   sure they have accurate data at the           When Are Appraisals Open To Public
                                              time of sale. Once the sales are re-          Inspection?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Prior to FY2005, assessors were only                                                        Focus
                                              viewed, the assessor can proceed to
required to submit the form when a                                                          Timely Tax Rate Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
                                              conduct assessment sales ratio studies
change in total value of more than 10                                                       Municipal Fiscal Participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
                                              to analyze the market trends to see if
percent occurred. Recent equalized                                                          DLS Update
                                              changes to value need to be made. A           Fall Course 101 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
valuation studies conducted by the bu-
                                              majority of the mass appraisal software       2004 Proposed EQV Values . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
reau in 2004 indicate that property val-                                                    FY05 Telephone and Pipeline Values. . . . . . . . . 7
                                              that is used in the assessors’ offices
ues for the state have almost doubled                                                       State Surplus Equipment Available . . . . . . . . . . 7
                                              have report modules that will generate
since 1998. The bureau has also ob-                                                         Assistance Available for Smart Growth. . . . . . . 8
                                              the ratio studies. Stratified assessment      Pittsfield Financial Advisory Board Dissolves. . . 8
served that close to 55 percent of the
                                              sale studies will assist the assessor with    2004 Municipal Law Seminars . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
municipalities were not adjusting val-                                                      DLS Training/Mix & Match Quiz . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
                                              identifying areas with inequities. Once
ues in the non-certification years and
                                              identified, the assessor can apply valu-      DLS Profile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
had assessment sales ratios below the
                                              ation adjustments. A new set of studies       Answers to Quiz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
City & Town July/August 2004                                                                                         Division of Local Services 2

                    From the Deputy
                   The town accountant
                   is responsible for
                   performing specific
                   day-to-day duties to
                                                Legal                                                                  in Our Opinion
                                                                                             Secretary of State’s Office to intervene
                   ensure that proper
                                                When Are Appraisals                          in this matter. Both the Supervisor of
                   procedures are
being maintained. The primary re-
                                                Open to Public                               Public Records and the Attorney Gen-
                                                                                             eral concurred that this appraisal was
sponsibility of the town accountant is          Inspection?                                  open to public inspection. When the
to maintain the ledger and perform the          by James Crowley                             BRA still refused to produce these doc-
accounting functions. These typically                                                        uments, Coleman filed suit in Superior
                                                With much fanfare the Boston Conven-
include preparing warrants, produc-                                                          Court against the BRA in December
                                                tion and Exhibition Center (BCEC)
ing revenue and expenditure reports,                                                         2000. The Superior Court judge ruled
                                                opened in early June 2004 on the
maintaining information on town debt                                                         that the Pappas appraisal was a public
                                                South Boston waterfront. This land-
and reconciling cash and receivables                                                         document, and the BRA appealed.
                                                mark structure promises to be a linch-
with the treasurer and collector.
                                                pin for the economic revitalization of the   The Appeals Court wrote that the Mass-
In addition, the accountant is respon-          City of Boston. This project also gener-     achusetts public records law (M.G.L.
sible for fulfilling periodic responsibili-     ated work for lawyers and appraisers.        Ch. 4 Sec. 7 Cl. 26 and Ch. 66 Sec. 10)
ties. These include reconciling cash            Pursuant to the BCEC enabling legisla-       that applied to municipalities and local
and receivables by June 30 and pre-             tion (Ch. 152 of the Acts of 1997), the      and regional authorities was enacted to
paring the annual Schedule A (the               Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA)         ensure access to government docu-
year-end fiscal statement of expendi-           acquired 30 parcels of land compris-         ments. Furthermore, a presumption ex-
tures and revenues) by October 31.              ing 60 acres in South Boston. For each       ists that a record, regardless of its
The accountant also has a role in the           parcel the BRA obtained two real es-         physical form or characteristics, is pub-
preparation of the town’s recap sheet.          tate appraisals in accordance with           lic. The burden of proof is on the custo-
                                                M.G.L. Ch. 79 Sec. 7A. Some owners           dian of the record to show why the
While daily duties are important, any
                                                accepted what was offered by the BRA,        record is exempt from disclosure. The
delays in completing these annual
                                                called pro tanto awards. Other land-         Legislature had enacted 12 exemption
duties could adversely affect the
                                                owners negotiated settlements in ex-         provisions in M.G.L. Ch. 4 Sec. 7 Cl. 26.
community. For example, failure to file
                                                cess of the pro tanto offers. Thirteen       Unless the BRA could demonstrate that
the Schedule A timely can result in the
                                                owners, however, decided to seek from        an exemption provision applied, then
withholding of state aid distributions.
                                                the courts what they deemed proper           the appraisal would be available to “any
Failure to reconcile all cash and re-
                                                compensation for their property. This        person” as set forth in M.G.L. Ch. 66
ceivables can result in free cash not
                                                setting is the background for an impor-      Sec. 10(a). In the Appeals Court’s view,
being certified.
                                                tant Appeals Court decision on public        the BRA could not raise the issue of mo-
Therefore, we recommend that local fi-          access to appraisal documents. The           tive or purpose for the request. In this
nancial officials work together with the        case is Coleman v. Boston Redevelop-         regard, the Court recognized that Cole-
town accountant to develop a local              ment Authority, Mass. App. Ct. (2004).       man might testify as a paid expert on
municipal calendar. The Division of                                                          behalf of the remaining owners with still
                                                Robert Coleman, a real estate ap-
Local Services’ Municipal Calendar is                                                        unresolved claims.
                                                praiser, learned that the BRA had made
a useful tool in this regard (available
                                                a final settlement with the owner of a       The BRA claimed the appraisal was
on our website
                                                certain parcel on Summer Street, known       exempt under M.G.L. Ch. 4 Sec. 7 Cl.
under “Publications”). This will help
                                                as the “Pappas” property. He made a          26(i) which bars disclosure of “ap-
the town accountant plan ahead and
                                                written request in November 1999 to the      praisals of real property acquired or to
set priorities to successfully accom-
                                                BRA for the appraisal report and related     be acquired until (1) a final agreement
plish all duties — both day-to-day
                                                documents in its possession pertaining       is entered into; or (2) any litigation rela-
and periodic.
                                                to the Pappas settlement. The BRA de-        tive to such appraisal has been termi-
                                                clined to furnish these documents on         nated; or (3) the time within which to
                                                the ground that the appraisal was ex-        commence such litigation has expired.”
                                                empt from disclosure under the public        The BRA argued that the appraisal for
                                                records law. Coleman then requested          the Pappas property remained exempt
                              Gerard D. Perry   the Supervisor of Public Records in the      continued on page six
                         Deputy Commissioner
City & Town July/August 2004                                                                                        Division of Local Services 3

Focus                                          cation process that occurs once every
                                                                                                        on Municipal Finance
                                                                                            Consequently, we have some sugges-
Timely Tax Rate                                three years, including target dates for      tions to facilitate timely rate setting. The
Setting                                        either quarterly or semi-annual billing
                                               municipalities. The text around the outer
                                                                                            members of the financial team should
                                                                                            work closely to establish target dates,
by Melinda J. Ordway
                                               edges gives a brief summary of the           discuss problems and create solu-
History indicates that it takes the Division   general duties of the key participants.      tions. First, establish the date you wish
of Local Services’ Bureau of Accounts                                                       to send out your tax bills and then work
an average of three to five business           Planning is the key and communities
                                                                                            backwards to determine when vital
days to process a tax rate, predicated         should not make planning decisions in
                                                                                            tasks should be accomplished. Moni-
on receipt of complete and accurate            isolation. For example, all communities
                                                                                            tor contractors closely to be sure they
data. This average is affected by the          deal with the Division of Local Services
                                                                                            keep to their schedules. Be aware of
number of communities in the pipeline          (DLS) for tax rate setting annually and
                                                                                            periods of heavy workloads for various
ahead of your community and the avail-         recertification every third year. Also,
                                                                                            local officials, contractors and DLS,
ability of local finance officials to answer   many cities and towns use contractors
                                                                                            and plan accordingly. Notify DLS when
questions that may occur. Deadlines            for revaluation and service bureaus for
                                                                                            your timetables change and provide
for setting timely tax rates and mailing       printing tax bills. These outside entities
                                                                                            preliminary information whenever pos-
tax bills depend on the billing method:        can have a significant impact on your
                                                                                            sible, so that we can adapt as much
semi-annual or quarterly. Quarterly            timetable. Scheduling should allow
                                                                                            as possible to your needs and provide
communities issue the first two prelimi-       extra time for the unknown. All con-
                                                                                            assistance when necessary. Try not to
nary tax bills in July and October each        tracts involving outside vendors should
                                                                                            be too ambitious particularly in a certi-
year and must mail the actual tax bills        have realistic timetables for the deliv-
                                                                                            fication year since this can lead to de-
by December 31. Semi-annual com-               ery of services and/or goods, realizing
                                                                                            lays. Specifically, DLS recommends that
munities traditionally mail their first half   that vendors frequently have many
                                                                                            you do not implement a new tax map-
tax bills on or before September 30. The       communities wanting the same serv-
                                                                                            ping system or a new valuation system
exception to the rule is communities in        ices at the same time.
                                                                                            in that year. Build in plenty of time for
a recertification year, which with an ap-      The same holds true for the Division of      unforeseen occurrences to be sure you
proved Pro-forma Recapitulation Sheet          Local Services. Not only do communi-         can accomplish your goals realistically.
from the Director of Accounts may issue        ties have to plan, DLS must plan as          Keep in mind that while the Bureau of
a third quarter estimated (quarterly) or       well. In a certification year, planning is   Accounts is busiest in the month of De-
preliminary (semi-annual) tax bill. This       even more crucial. Bureau of Local As-       cember setting tax rates, the Bureau of
article looks at the large number of fis-      sessment notes, through community            Local Assessment is busiest in the pre-
cal participants involved in the tax rate      submissions of workplans, when impor-        ceding months completing on-site re-
setting process, suggests ways to en-          tant tasks are scheduled to be com-          certification reviews. Tax rate setting in-
sure that timely tax bills will be mailed      pleted for review. These tasks include       volves many participants and if we all
according to your community’s time-            land schedules, residential and com-         work cooperatively, we can achieve our
table, and examines when tax rates             mercial values (to name a few). Often        mutual goal of getting that rate set in a
were set in FY04.                              timetables are changed without inform-       timely manner.
It is obvious when you look at Table 1         ing DLS; other times communities do
                                                                                            In fiscal year 2004, there were 142
that there are many participants in-           not strictly enforce contractual dead-
                                                                                            semi-annual billing communities (40
volved in the tax rate setting process,        lines. These deviations from the sched-
                                                                                            percent) and 209 quarterly billing com-
and even more in a certification year.         ule make it difficult and sometimes im-
                                                                                            munities (60 percent). Since FY98, the
Table 1 presents a central box repre-          possible to have certification appraisal
                                                                                            number of communities adopting quar-
senting the tax rate setting process with      staff available when the community is
                                                                                            terly tax billing as a way to improve
the star, July 1, denoting the new fiscal      ready. Similarly, the Bureau of Accounts
                                                                                            cash flow needs has grown from 165
year. Within that box are smaller boxes        must plan for community submissions
                                                                                            to 209, or about 27 percent. Figure 1
that describe major steps by various           of actual or Pro-forma tax recapitulation
                                                                                            shows the tax rate setting patterns by
participants in the annual tax rate setting    sheet as well as balance sheets for the
                                                                                            month separately for quarterly and
process. On the perimeter of the cen-          certification of free cash.
                                                                                            continued on page six
tral box, we have illustrated the certifi-
City & Town July/August 2004                                                                                          Division of Local Services 4                               City & Town July/August 2004                                                                                Division of Local Services 5

                                             Table 1

                                             Planning for Recertification* and Tax Rate Setting
                                                                                                                 Preliminary                       Public                        Final
                                                                                                                 certification                   disclosure                   certification
                                                                                    Billing                                                                                                                                                      Preliminary
                                                                                                                  June 15                         July 15                      August 15
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                September 15
Municipal Fiscal                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Assessors
                                                                                                                                                     July 1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Assessors are responsible for main-
Participants                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Public
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         taining a database of all of the prop-
Board of Selectmen                                                                                                                                                                                                                               October 15
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         erties in the municipality. The asses-
The chief executive body of a town is                         Fiscal players review                                                                                                                                                                                      sors also determine the property
                                                                                                                                                     Clerk certifies                                                                                                     values and classify all of the property
the board of selectmen. The board of                            all local estimated                                                                                                   Accountant closes books
selectmen coordinates the general op-                                                                       Municipality                             appropriations                                                                                                      in the community. The annual Tax
                                                              revenue sources and                                                                                                     and documents receipts                                        Final
erations of the town government. It                                                                       adopts a budget                            and sources of                                                                                                      Rate Recapitulation Sheet and annual
                                                               propose a balanced                                                                                                     & deficits from prior year                                 certification
monitors the financial performance of                                                                                                                   funding                                                                                                          allowable levy growth report are pre-
                                                                       budget                                                                                                                                                                   November 15
the town and participates in the budget                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  pared and submitted by the asses-
process. The selectmen should as-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        sors. The assessors determine the
sume an active role in any issue or pol-                                                                                                                                                Assessors submit final                                                           amount of property taxes to be paid
                                                               Assessors estimate
icy that has broad financial implications                                                                                                                                               values and growth to                 August 15          November 15              by each taxpayer and grant abate-
                                                               preliminary growth
for the town. Many town employees are                                                                                                                                                    DOR for certification                                                           ments and exemptions to taxpayers.
appointed and supervised by the se-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The assessors are also responsible
lectmen and expenditures are ap-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         for administering motor vehicle, boat
proved by the selectmen through the                          Taxpayer application                                                                                                     DOR certifies growth and                                                           and farm excises.
warrant process. In addition, the select-                    period for abatements                                                                                                    tax classification options
men issue warrants to call town meet-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Accountant or Auditor
ings and elections and sign debt issues                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The accountant or auditor maintains
for the town. Under Proposition 21⁄ 2, the                                                                                                                                                                                                                               all of the municipality’s financial
                                                                                                           DOR calculates                       Fiscal players complete                 Selectmen or Council
selectmen decide whether to seek voter                              Municipality                                                                                                                                                                                         records and reviews the bills and
                                                                                                           actual levy limit                    tax recap (& supporting                hold public meeting on
approval of an override or exclusion to                             issues tax                                                                                                                                                                                           payrolls to ensure that they are within
                                                                                                           and certifies tax                   schedules) and submit to               property tax classification
raise additional tax revenues for the                                  bills                                                                                                                                                                                             budget and are lawful expenditures.
                                                                                                               rate(s)                                    DOR                                  options                                                                   The accountant or auditor retains cus-
budget. They also decide whether to
accept the debt exclusion that shifts all                                                                                                                                                                                                                                tody of all municipal contracts and
or part of water and sewer debt serv-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    prepares financial reports for the mu-
ice costs from user fees to tax levy. Al-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                nicipality. Additionally, the accountant
location of the tax levy among property                            September 30                                                                       September 1                                                                                                        or auditor issues monthly reports for
classes under the Classification Law is                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  each department on spending to
another decision made by the select-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     date versus the budget.
men. Typically, the board of selectmen
chooses an audit firm to conduct an an-                            December 31                                                                        December 1                                                                                                         Collector
nual audit of the town accounts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The collector collects taxes and other
                                               * While the first three steps of the certification process (preliminary to final certification) are required once every three years, the last three steps (shaded gray) are                                               receipts such as fees, licenses and
Mayor or Manager                                 preformed annually as a part of the tax rate setting process.                                                                                                                                                           permits in the community as author-
The chief executive in city government                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ized. Property taxes may be collected
is the mayor or manager. The mayor or        board of selectmen, vary according to              are the same. The city council and                                               Finance Committee                           Treasurer                                   on a semiannual or quarterly cycle
manager of a city acts as the city ad-       the authorizing language.                          town meeting/town council make bud-                                                                                                                                      depending on local option.
                                                                                                                                                                                 Towns in Massachusetts have insti-          In a city or town the treasurer functions
ministrator. The mayor’s responsibilities                                                       get appropriations and authorize debt.
                                             Council or Town Meeting                                                                                                             tuted finance committees to review de-      as the cash manager of all of the mu-       City or Town Clerk
include submitting a budget to the city                                                         The city council and town meeting/town
                                                                                                                                                                                 partmental budgets and make recom-          nicipality’s funds. The treasurer is
council, appointing personnel, negoti-       The structure of the legislative body of           council also enact ordinances, bylaws                                                                                                                                    The clerk records appropriations and
                                                                                                                                                                                 mendations to the town meeting.             responsible for the deposit, investment
ating collective bargaining and signing      the municipality is determined by the              and regulations. The city council may                                                                                                                                    certifies them to the proper officers in
                                                                                                                                                                                 Another important function of the fi-       and disbursement of funds and can
debt issues. Towns may establish the         municipality’s status as a city or town.           reduce budget amounts submitted by                                                                                                                                       the municipality. It is the clerk’s duty to
                                                                                                                                                                                 nance committee is its role in the trans-   issue debt on behalf of the municipality.
position of Town Manager or Town Ad-         The city council is the legislative body           the mayor and place Proposition 21⁄ 2                                                                                                                                    notify the Department of Revenue of
                                                                                                                                                                                 fer of money from a town’s annual re-       In addition the treasurer selects, pro-
ministrator in a town charter or by a        in a city and the town meeting is the              questions on the ballot with the mayor’s                                                                                                                                 the authorization to incur debt. In a city
                                                                                                                                                                                 serve fund. The finance committee’s         cures and manages the banking serv-
special act of the legislature. The re-      town legislative body. In a few towns a            approval. In addition, the city council                                                                                                                                  the clerk also retains copies of con-
                                                                                                                                                                                 approval is required to transfer money      ices used by the municipality.
sponsibilities of such a role, and con-      town council is the legislative body.              allocates the tax levy under classifica-                                                                                                                                 tracts and municipal records. I
                                                                                                                                                                                 from the town’s reserve fund.
sequently its effect on the duties of the    The basic functions of these bodies                tion with the mayor’s approval.
City & Town July/August 2004                                                                                                                                   Division of Local Services 6

Timely Tax Rate Setting                                                                                         continued from page three   Inspection              continued from page two

                                                                                                                                            until all the claims for parcels in the
                                                   FY04 Tax Rate Setting by Month                                                           BCEC project had been settled through
                                                                                                                                            negotiation or litigation.
                                                                131                                 Quarterly certification                 The Appeals Court disagreed with the
                                                                                                    Quarterly non-certification             BRA’s reading of the statute. The BRA
                                                                                                    Semi-annual certification               unsuccessfully attempted to cite court
                                                                                                    Semi-annual non-certification           decisions from other states in support
                                                                                                                                            of its broader reading of the Massachu-
                                                                                                                                            setts public records exemption statute.
  Number of tax rates

                                                                                                                                            In the Court’s view, the exemption pro-
                                                                                                                                            vision for appraisals in paragraph (i)
                                                                                                                                            applied solely to the property that was
                                                                                                                                            the subject of the appraisal and did not
                         40                                                                                                                 cover collective appraisals that are re-
                                                30         30         30
                                                                                                                                            lated to an entire project or site. In other
                         20                                                                                                                 words, the paragraph (i) appraisal ex-
                                                                           13                        8
                                                                                 7    6 6                        6
                                            1                                                               3           1     1     2 2     emption was parcel specific. According
                          0                                                                                                                 to the Appeals Court, the Legislature
                              Aug    Sep     Oct       Nov       Dec        Jan        Feb      Mar          Apr         May        Jun
                                                                                                                                            intended the exemption for appraisals
                        Note: One semi-annual community, in a recertification year, set its rate after the close of FY04 on 7/16/04.        to be temporary. By its terms, the ap-
                        Another semi-annual community, in a recertification year, has not set its rate yet.
                                                                                                                                            praisal exemption ceased to apply once
Figure 1                                                                                                                                    any of the three separate conditions in
                                                                                                                                            paragraph (i) was satisfied. The Court
semi-annual billing communities. Within                                         considerations cited above. Yet despite
                                                                                                                                            noted that the Legislature had deliber-
each of those two monthly vertical bars,                                        ample notice, 161 or nearly half of all
                                                                                                                                            ately chosen to separate each of the
we have indicated how many communi-                                             communities in the Commonwealth set
                                                                                                                                            three clauses in paragraph (i) by the
ties had their property valuations recer-                                       their tax rate in December 2003. Too
                                                                                                                                            word “or” which is a disjunctive term,
tified. One would think that the majority                                       often, communities are submitting certi-
                                                                                                                                            and had not opted to use the conjunc-
of semi-annual billing communities                                              fication and/or growth information to
                                                                                                                                            tive term “and” in drafting the exemp-
would have their tax rates set before                                           DLS on the day of tax classification
                                                                                                                                            tion provision. In the case at hand, the
October. However, that is not the case.                                         hearings and/or submitting balance
                                                                                                                                            owner of the Pappas property met the
Only 20 communities, or 14 percent, ac-                                         sheets days in advance of scheduled
                                                                                                                                            first condition by entering into a final
complished setting the actual tax rate                                          town meetings, expecting immediate
                                                                                                                                            agreement with the BRA. Citing prior
(and one community received autho-                                              approval. Every effort is made to ac-
                                                                                                                                            decisions, the Appeals Court observed
rization for preliminary notices) in time                                       commodate communities. However,
                                                                                                                                            that exemptions in the public records
for the September 30 bill. For quarterly                                        DLS cannot guarantee that communi-
                                                                                                                                            law are strictly construed. The Court de-
communities, 180 or 86 percent accom-                                           ties submitting close to December will
                                                                                                                                            clined to extend the appraisal exemp-
plished the task (and 15 communities                                            get its free cash certified, receive final
                                                                                                                                            tion for so long as there was pending
received authorization for preliminary                                          certification, or that the tax rate will be
                                                                                                                                            litigation concerning any other parcel
notices) in time.1                                                              set so bills can be mailed by December
                                                                                                                                            in the project.
                                                                                31. Given the popularity of quarterly tax
Over the last few years, in part due to
                                                                                billing and the resulting increased work-                   Consequently, the Appeals Court held
the growing number of quarterly tax
                                                                                load for DLS near the end of the calen-                     that an appraisal was a public record
communities, the rate of submissions in
                                                                                dar year, additional time should be built                   once the compensation for the owner
late-November through December has
                                                                                into local planning efforts. I                              had been resolved through negotiation
been increasing. Given the limited DLS
                                                                                                                                            or conclusion of litigation. In the Court’s
staffing and increased requests in a                                            1. Chapter 138 of the Acts of 2003 extended the
                                                                                FY04 mailing date for quarterly communities from            view, public access to appraisal reports
narrow timeframe, we issued a letter in
                                                                                the traditional date of December 31 to January 30.          outweighed the speculative interest of
October 2003, reiterating the planning
                                                                                                                                            the state or any municipality. I
City & Town July/August 2004                                                                                   Division of Local Services 7

DLS Update
Fall Course 101                               tain Cherry Sheet charges also use            State Surplus Equipment
                                              EQV: County Tax, Boston Metropolitan
The Department of Revenue’s basic
                                              Transit District, Mosquito Control Pro-       Available
course for assessors, Course 101 As-                                                        The Department of Environmental Pro-
                                              jects and Air Pollution Control Districts.
sessment Administration: Law, Proce-                                                        tection’s (DEP) Municipal Waste Reduc-
                                              In addition, EQV is used in calculating
dures, Valuation, will be offered in the                                                    tion Program, in cooperation with the
                                              a community’s debt limit.
evening in October and November 2004                                                        State Surplus Office, is publicizing the
at Bourne High School (Room 10D), 75          It is anticipated that the EQVs will be fi-   availability of surplus chairs, tables, of-
Waterhouse Road, Bourne, MA. This             nalized in early winter of 2005 and           fice equipment, computers, and other
program will be conducted from 6:00           used in local aid and assessment for-         used property to cities and towns.
p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on October 7, 14, 21,       mulas beginning in FY2007. The pro-
28 and November 4 and 10, 2004.               posed 2004 EQVs are now available             Ashland and Watertown are two com-
                                              on the Division of Local Services web-        munities that have received surplus
Attendance at Course 101 and suc-                                                           equipment for town offices. In both
                                              site at
cessful completion of the examination                                                       cases, the DEP worked with the Turn-
satisfies the minimum qualification re-                                                     pike Authority’s Big Dig staff to move
quirements for assessors that were
established by 830 Code of Mass-              FY05 Telephone and                            surplus equipment from downtown
                                                                                            Boston to the local town offices.
achusetts Regulation (CMR) 58.3.1.            Pipeline Values
Assessors, and assistant assessors            In compliance with M.G.L. 59, Sec. 38A,       The Ashland Department of Public
with valuation responsibilities, must ful-    the Commissioner of Revenue has certi-        Works (DPW) obtained surplus office
fill minimum qualifications within two        fied the full and fair cash valuation as of   cubicle partitions to help reorganize
years of the date of their original elec-     January 1, 2004, of pipelines used for        their offices. The Watertown library also
tion or appointment. All participants who     the transmission of natural gas, petro-       obtained 24 surplus office cubicle par-
successfully complete this course will        leum or their products or by-products         titions. The town library is undergoing a
receive a certificate.                        for a distance of 25 miles or more. The       two-year renovation. Beverly Shank, the
                                              Commissioner of Revenue has also de-          Library Director, said “We’re using the
For more information, link to a registra-                                                   24 divider panels to set up department
tion bulletin online at         termined and certified the full and fair
                                              cash valuation for FY05 of the machin-        and office space in our temporary
dls/publ/bull/2004/2004_10b.pdf.                                                            quarters on the ground floor of a vacant
                                              ery, poles, wires, underground conduits,
                                              wires and pipes of the centrally valued       school building. Finding these surplus
2004 Proposed EQV Values                      telephone and telegraph companies.            panels meant one less expense in our
The Bureau of Local Assessment has                                                          overall project budget.”
completed the proposed 2004 Equal-            Beginning in calendar year 2005, for
                                              fiscal year 2006, telephone valuations        The DEP’s Municipal Waste Reduction
ized Valuations (EQVs), representing
                                              will no longer be mailed to communi-          Program has distributed a “wish list” to
the full and fair cash value of all taxable
                                              ties. Notification of the values pursuant     enable communities to fax in a list of
property for each municipality as of Jan-
                                              to M.G.L. Ch. 59, Sec. 39 and tax base        needed equipment for town offices
uary 1, 2004. Every two years the Com-
                                              new growth from these companies will          and get help finding it from state
missioner of Revenue determines EQV
                                              be posted on the Division of Local            agency inventories. For more informa-
of all cities and towns in Massachusetts
                                              Services (DLS) website at www.mass.           tion contact John Crisley at the DEP’s
(M.G.L. Ch. 58, Sec. 10C). Once final-
                                              gov/dls on or before May 15 annually.         Boston office at 617-556-1021 or
ized, the EQVs will be used as a basis
                                              Questions can be addressed to Walter I
of comparison among the 351 munici-
palities within the Commonwealth for          Sandoval-Dusza at 617-626-4087.
certain state and local purposes.             Fiscal year 2005 pipeline and tele-
EQV is used in the allocation of local aid    phone values are available on the
distributed through the lottery formula,      DLS website at
aid to public libraries, reimbursement of     WhatsNew/whatsnew.htm.
school construction projects and in the
calculation of Chapter 70 funding. Cer-
City & Town July/August 2004                                                                                 Division of Local Services 8

DLS Update
Assistance Available for                     • Establishment of a local or regional       In the spring of 2001, city officials faced
                                             affordable housing trust                     a budget deficit estimated at about $8
Smart Growth                                                                              million and growing. A number of fiscal
Secretary of the Office for Common-          • Planning for how to use Community
                                                                                          issues, including problems with the
wealth Development Douglas I. Foy has        Preservation Act funds
                                                                                          city’s health insurance fund and the ad-
announced a new $3 million pool of           • Site evaluation                            ministration of school construction debt,
funds to help Massachusetts communi-                                                      contributed to the deficit.
ties plan for new housing. These funds       • Financial feasibility analysis.
are intended to provide an incentive for                                                  City and state officials worked together
                                             MassHousing created the $100 million
town officials to plan new Smart Growth                                                   on a home rule petition that was ap-
                                             Priority Development Fund in response
development near transit stations, in                                                     proved by the Legislature and signed by
                                             to the critical need for new mixed-in-
established areas with existing infra-                                                    then Governor Jane M. Swift on July 3,
                                             come housing in Massachusetts. Over
structure or using vacant buildings.                                                      2001. The law allowed Pittsfield to bor-
                                             the next three years MassHousing pro-
                                                                                          row up to $10 million to avoid making
The funds are being provided by the          jects that the PDF will leverage as
                                                                                          drastic cuts in operations and workforce.
quasi-public agency MassHousing from         much as $1 billion in financing, help-
its Priority Development Fund (PDF), a       ing to create as many as 5,000 units of      The city actually borrowed $4.6 million
$100 million effort to increase housing      mixed-income housing. To learn more          under the law and repaid the loan dur-
production that was announced by the         about the PDF, visit the MassHousing         ing fiscal 2004.
Governor in January of this year. The        website at
                                                                                          The FAB, also created as part of the law,
Massachusetts Department of Housing                                                       assisted in implementing changes to
and Community Development (DHCD)             Pittsfield Financial Advisory                secure the long-term financial stability
will administer the planning funds on        Board Dissolves                              of the city. The city’s annual budget, all
MassHousing’s behalf. Information on                                                      appropriations, expenditures and bor-
                                             The City of Pittsfield financial advisory
how to apply for funds is available on the                                                rowings were subject to the approval of
                                             board (FAB), created by special legis-
DHCD website at                                                        the FAB, which consisted of the Mayor;
                                             lation three years ago for the City of
All cities and towns are eligible to         Pittsfield when it was in a fiscal crisis,   the President of the City Council; James
apply for up to $50,000 in planning as-      dissolved on June 25.                        R. Johnson (Director of Accounts);
sistance, although some larger awards                                                     Daniel J. Murphy (Chief, DLS Property
                                             Before dissolving, the board approved        Tax Bureau); and Diane Murphy (DLS
may be considered. Program guide-
                                             the city’s $106 million FY05 budget,         Regional Manager).
lines were drafted to encourage the
                                             which was crafted and approved by
new production of housing with an em-                                                     While the board was working with Pitts-
                                             city officials. The spending plan, the
phasis on mixed-income rental units.                                                      field, the city has been able to reform
                                             city’s second consecutive balanced
Priority will be given to applications                                                    the administration of its health insurance
                                             budget, provides for the efficient deliv-
that incorporate the principles of sus-                                                   programs, bring consistency and equity
                                             ery of city services and demonstrates
tainable development, such as locat-                                                      to the city’s relationship with its work-
                                             that the fundamental objective of the
ing housing in proximity to existing in-                                                  force, eliminate the use of one-time rev-
                                             special legislation, fiscal stability, has
frastructure, community services, and                                                     enues to fund the annual operating
                                             been achieved.
public transportation.                                                                    budget, develop reasonable revenue
                                             “This finance advisory board is an ex-       and expenditure budgets and reconcile
Possible uses of the funds include, but
are not limited to:
                                             ample of state and local governments         its cash and receivables. I
                                             working together to solve complex
• Zoning initiatives                         problems,” said Gerard D. Perry, Dep-
                                             uty Commissioner of the Division of
• Education and outreach                     Local Services (DLS).
City & Town July/August 2004                                                                               Division of Local Services 9

DLS Update
2004 Municipal Law                           DLS Training                                anyone with an interest in municipal fi-
                                                                                         nance to take advantage of this unique
Seminars                                     The Division of Local Services has pre-
                                                                                         learning experiencing!
The Division of Local Services’ legal        pared a tutorial designed to familiarize
staff will offer the seminar “What’s New     local officials with the functions of the   While taking some time off this summer,
in Municipal Law” Friday, September          Division’s five bureaus, as well as some    put aside the usual crossword puzzles
24, 2004, at the Best Western Hotel in       of the basics concepts and terms re-        and word jumbles and test your knowl-
West Springfield and Friday, October 1,      lated to municipal finance. The tutorial    edge of municipal finance by taking our
2004, at Lantana in Randolph. Presen-        was created in Microsoft PowerPoint         Municipal Mix and Match quiz, which
tations will include new legislation and     and is available online at www.mass.        was offered to participants in our 2004
recent court decisions pertaining to         gov/dls/training/presentation/dlspres.      New Officials Finance Forum. Answers
local government.                            pps. Encourage other local officials or     appear on page 10. I

The general session in the morning will
be conducted by Daniel J. Murphy,             Municipal Mix & Match Quiz
Esq., Chief of the Property Tax Bureau;
Gary Blau, Esq.; Kathleen Colleary,           Identify which office(s) in the second column performs each of the duties and
Esq.; James Crowley, Esq.; Christopher        responsibilities listed in the first column.
Hinchey, Esq.; and Mary Mitchell, Esq.        1. Records all votes of the legislative body _____        A. Accountant/auditor
The afternoon session will consist of         2. Authorizes debt _____                                  B. Assessors
three simultaneous workshops. Work-
shop A will examine a variety of new is-      3. Manages the community’s money _____                    C. Collector
sues and recurring problems facing as-        4. Approves all transfers from the reserve fund _____     D. Clerk
sessors and collectors with respect to
real estate, personal property and roll-      5. Prepares and submits the annual budget _____           E. Finance committee
back taxes; and boat and motor vehicle        6. Administers the motor vehicle excise _____             F. Mayor
excises. Workshop B will focus on inter-
esting and frequently asked questions         7. Reviews vendor bills to ensure that they are lawful    G. Selectmen
about municipal accounting, revolving         expenditures _____
                                                                                                        H. Town meeting
funds, and other special fund and fi-         8. Makes appropriations _____
nance issues. Workshop C will explore                                                                   I. City council
the ever-expanding number of tax pol-         9. Maintains all municipal contracts _____
                                                                                                        J. Treasurer
icy choices of cities and towns through       10. Prepares the annual Tax Rate Recapitulation
a survey and discussion of the many           Sheet _____
local option statutes: including senior
work-offs and exemptions, supplemen-          11. Signs debt issues in towns _____
tal assessments, tax shifts and TIFs.         12. Pays vendor after proper authorization _____
In each of the afternoon workshops,           13. Monitors municipal spending to ensure that
pertinent and practical information relat-    departments are within their budgets _____
ing to recent statutory amendments,
new laws and case decisions will be in-       14. Notifies DOR of any votes to incur debt _____
corporated into the program and atten-
dant materials.
A registration bulletin for this seminar
is available for downloading from our
website ( under
“Training Programs and Seminars.”
City & Town July/August 2004                                                                                     Division of Local Services 10

                                                                                      Reporting                        continued from page one
DLS Profile: BLA Regional Staff                                                       sure that the board has reviewed the
Adam Burt and Christopher Keefe are field ap-                                         changes and that the assessments are
praisers in the Bureau of Local Assessment (BLA),                                     in compliance to the guidelines. The
and work in the Springfield and Worcester offices,                                    assessors are required to submit only
respectively.                                                                         the form. All supporting documentation
Adam began working in the Division about four                                         used to develop the valuation adjust-
years ago as an auditor in the Education Audit                                        ments must be retained for five years
Bureau. Eventually, he transferred to the BLA. A                                      at the assessors’ office in case of a po-
native of Easthampton, he brings a vast familiarity                                   tential audit.
with western Massachusetts to the communities                                         Discussions with assessors who rou-
he works with as a field appraiser.                                                   tinely adjust interim year assessments
His background also combines experience in agri-                                      state that their experiences with both
culture as well as business. Adam holds a bache-                                      the taxpayers and the financial man-
lor’s degree from the University of Maine at Orono                                    agement of the community have been
in agricultural resources and a master’s degree in                                    favorable. Taxpayers quickly adjust to
finance from Western New England College. Born                                        the annual routine and although there
and raised on a dairy farm in Easthampton, he has              Adam Burt              may be some grumbling, most would
also operated small businesses. In addition, Adam                                     prefer to have their taxes equitable and
is currently the co-chairperson of the Easthampton                                    not subject to a substantial swing in
school building committee and is a past member                                        value every three years. I
of the town’s planning board. He resides with his
family in Easthampton.
                                                                                        Answers to Municipal
Noel W. Nilson, assessor in Sandisfield, recalled
that “During our FY04 recertification work, we                                          Mix & Match Quiz
found Adam to be very responsive and helpful.                                           Following are the answers to the
We especially appreciated his sensitivity and un-                                       Mix and Match Quiz.
derstanding in working with us during the one-
year interval when we had very limited access to                                        1. D                      8. H, I
our source data due to a chemical contamination                                         2. H, I                   9. A, D
of our office.”
                                                                                        3. J                      10. A, B, D
Chris began working for BLA in October 2003.
Prior to joining the BLA, Chris worked for private                                      4. E, I                   11. D, G, J
appraisal firms as an appraiser and a revaluation        Christopher Keefe
                                                                                        5. E, F, G                12. J
consultant. Similar to Adam, Chris is very familiar
with western Massachusetts, as most of the communities he worked with as a con-         6. B                      13. A
sultant were located in that region of the state.                                       7. A                      14. D
Chris and his family reside in Westfield. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business
administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and also has expe-
rience as a local official. He is a former city council member and currently serves    City &Town
as a member of the Westfield zoning board of appeals.                                  City &Town is published by the Massachusetts Depart-
                                                                                       ment of Revenue’s Division of Local Services (DLS)
Priscilla Hogan, assessing administrator in Milford, commented that Chris “is ded-     and is designed to address matters of interest to local
icated and takes pride in his work. That’s his whole demeanor. He also makes it a      officials.

point to work through issues until they are resolved.” I                               Joan E. Grourke, Editor
                                                                                       To obtain information or publications, contact the
                                                                                       Division of Local Services via:
                                                                                       • website:
                                                                                       • telephone: (617) 626-2300
                                                                                       • mail: PO Box 9569, Boston, MA 02114-9569

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