Friday, June 19, 2020

Vote YES on Article #14

This post was written by Jim Moran who has followed and written about Longmeadow town finances on  the LongmeadowBuzz blog for many years.

Many of the discussions on Longmeadow social media and elsewhere focus on the headline that Longmeadow has the highest tax (mil) rate in MA. Little attention is paid to the fact that there are 46 other towns in MA that have significantly higher average single family tax bills vs. Longmeadow.  

For example, the town of Weston has an average tax bill that is more than twice that for Longmeadow but Weston's tax rate is only 12.83 vs. 24.21 for Longmeadow.

Click to enlarge chart

It is also interesting to note that the rate of increase of the average tax bill from FY2000 --> FY2020 for Longmeadow vs. other towns in the area as well as eastern Massachusetts (see chart below).

Click to enlarge chart

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Did you know that average Longmeadow property taxes have increased only ~4% /year for the past 20 years? Tax bills in many towns in eastern MA including Weston and Lexington have increased at significantly higher rates (see table above).
  2. Did you know that the Longmeadow tax rate has decreased a number of times in recent years but average tax bills increased at the same time?
  3. Did you know that if the average Longmeadow assessed property value decreased that taxes will still increase? 
  4. Did you know if the town doubled the tax (mil) rate for local businesses, it would deliver very little tax relief to home owners?  This is because Longmeadow's total property assessment is primarily residential (97%/ 3%).
  5. Did you know that the Proposition 2½ tax (mil) rate cap of $25/1000 is an arbitrary number established almost 40 years ago (1983)?
  6. Did you know that Longmeadow is 97% residential/ 3% commercial and a total assessed value over $2 billion? Most new growth in assessment value comes from home improvement not new home/ business development.
  7. Did you know if the current COVID-19 situation results in a significant downturn in the economy and decrease in property values, the town could be forced to reduce taxes resulting in a significant reduction in services?
ARTICLE 14. To see if the Town will vote to petition the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to permit the Town, subject to approval at a town-wide referendum vote, to exempt the Town of Longmeadow from the requirements of paragraphs (b), (d), and (e) of Section 21C of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 59 by adding paragraph (f) as follows: 

(f) The local appropriating authority of any city or town may, by two-thirds vote, seek voter approval at a regular or special election to accept this paragraph f, thereby rejecting the limit set forth in paragraph (b) and not be subject to it provided however that the question submitted shall be as follows:

''Shall the (city/town) of ___ adopt paragraph f of MGL Chap 59 section 21C thereby rejecting the 2.5% of assessed market value tax ceiling limit set forth in paragraph b of MGL Chap50 Sec 21C?

Yes ___ No ___"; and provided, further, that said question shall be deemed approved if a majority of the persons voting thereon shall vote ''yes''. or in other ways modifying Chapter 51 section 21C to affect this local exemption from the 2.5% of assessed market value tax ceiling limit, or take any other action relative thereto.

This warrant article allows the Town to request from the Massachusetts legislature the option to allow towns to waive the tax ceiling imposed by Proposition 2-1/2 if property values drop to a level that would cause the local tax rate to exceed the current maximum allowable rate. Such a decline in property values would not allow the Town budget to sustain services in Longmeadow. Even if this requested legislation is enacted, the town of Longmeadow would have to accept the option by voting “yes” at both a town meeting (2/3 vote) and a referendum ballot of a town-wide election.

Become an informed voter.

Vote YES on Article 14 at the Annual Town Meeting on Tuesday so that the town has the tools it needs to navigate difficult times ahead.  Remember a YES vote does not increase taxes or the tax rate.

by Jim Moran/ 40 year Longmeadow Town Resident