Tisbury selectmen vote no tax shift and residential exemption

The Tisbury selectmen, at a tax rate classification hearing Tuesday, agreed not to impose a tax shift on commercial properties. They also voted to continue the town’s residential valuation exemption at 20 percent of the average residential property value.

Up until March this year, under a tax shift implemented in 1986, the town collected a larger share of its tax levy from commercial and industrial real estate and personal property owners than would be the case if those property owners were taxed at the rate applied to residential property.

The residential exemption results in a portion of the tax levy being shifted from qualifying taxpayers domiciled in Tisbury to the tax bills for non-resident property owners. It has been in place since 1988.

Based on the selectmen’s decision, assistant assessor Ann Marie Cywinski said, the fiscal 2013 (FY13) tax rates would be $8.48 per $1,000 of assessed value for residential properties and $7.87 for commercial properties.

Ms. Cywinski said she wanted to make it clear how the residential tax exemption works, because some taxpayers have the impression they will get 20 percent off their property’s total assessed value.

Ms. Cywinski said there are 1,037 parcels in Tisbury that benefit from the residential exemption. The amount taken off assessments in 2013 will be $151,495, which is 20 percent of the town’s average residential property valuation of $757,475. The exemption is granted to residents who apply and meet criteria established by the Department of Revenue and Board of Assessors.

Ms. Cywinski also reported that the town’s budget rose $413,838.06, an increase of two percent from 2012 to 2013. However, the assessed values of real estate in town overall fell $87,179,676, a three percent decrease. The town’s excess levy capacity for FY13 is $205,367.

Several Tisbury business owners who attended the hearing thanked the selectmen for doing away with the tax shift and asked them to do so again, because their reduced taxes had a positive impact on their businesses. Tom Urmston, a property owner on Main Street and trustee of the West Chop Trust, spoke at the hearing as a representative of his fellow summer residents, who, he said, were concerned about the increase in their tax bills last year. In addition to paying for schools and services they don’t use year-round, summer residents pay a higher tax rate because they are ineligible for a residential exemption.

“So, the reason I’m here is just to try to stand up and be counted,” Mr. Urmston said. “I don’t think there is anything you all as selectmen can do. I mean, the valuations are what they are. But I do want to sort of plead our case, if you will, and let you know that we were certainly disturbed by what happened last year, and we’re just wondering if anything could be done that might benefit not only our summer community, but other summer communities in the town.”

In other business, the selectmen held two public hearings regarding new crosswalks and stop signs, reported elsewhere. They also approved plans for the demolition of the old fire station on Beach Road during the first week of December; an extension of the Comcast contract negotiations until January 23, 2013; and a contract for $5,900 to be awarded to P & P Masonry for patio work in the Spring Building courtyard. Also, they appointed John Rollins to the personnel board and town tax collector and treasurer Tim McLean to the Embarkation Fee Committee.

Regarding personnel matters, the selectmen voted to accept a search committee’s recommendation and will make an offer to EMT-Paramedic Tracey Jones to replace Jeff Pratt, who is retiring, as the town’s ambulance coordinator.

The selectmen also voted to approve Police Chief Dan Hanavan’s request to fill a vacant sergeant’s position and to reappoint John Crocker as administrative assistant harbormaster until June 30, 2013.

Fire chief John Schilling confirmed that with a push from hurricane Sandy, the fire department has “essentially” completed its move into the new emergency services facility and would likely schedule a public open house in December.