Rise in Edgartown property values will drop tax rate 6 percent

White shingles and black shutters in Edgartown — File photo by: Steve Myrick

The board of assessors told Edgartown selectmen at their regular Monday meeting that the real estate tax rate will drop by about 6 percent next fiscal year due to an increase in the value of town property. The current rate of $3.70 per $1,000 of assessed value, will be lowered to approximately $3.44 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“The tax rate goes down because the amount of taxable property goes up,” assessor Alan Gowell said. “While last year we had $6.6 billion of taxable property in Edgartown, this year we have $7 billion. We’re a valuable place.”

The assessors recommended that the town continue its practice of taxing residential, commercial, and open space property at the same rate.

Selectmen deferred a vote until the Massachusetts Department of Revenue can certify the town’s valuation.

Also Monday, selectmen voted to appoint veteran firefighter Andrew Kelly as assistant fire chief, on the recommendation of the town’s board of fire engineers. Mr. Kelly will replace assistant fire chief Scott Ellis, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

In other action, Don Hatch, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse District, presented plans to reorganize the regional waste disposal facility on Edgartown–West Tisbury Road to separate the residential drop-off from the commercial facility. The refuse district wants to borrow $2.5 million for the project, after its current $2.5 million bond is paid off next summer. Edgartown’s share of the bond would be 69.5 percent, or $1.7 million plus interest, over the life of the bond. Voters in Edgartown and West Tisbury will decide whether to approve the borrowing at their annual town meetings. Chilmark and Aquinnah, the other two towns in the refuse district, already approved the measure at special town meetings this past fall. All four towns must agree to borrow the money.

Selectmen voted to continue participation in the Community Development Block Grant program, by applying for another grant. Grant administrator Alice Boyd told the selectmen that she will apply for between $800,000 and $900,000 in federal funds, which are distributed by state officials. The money is slated for energy-efficient home repairs and child care subsidies for Island residents who qualify according to income levels. Edgartown serves as the lead town for the grant, which also includes benefits for West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aqunnah.

Also Monday, Sam Hart, executive director of Adult Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV), asked selectmen to support an appropriation of $15,425, for the organization, a proportional share of $50,000 ACE MV is requesting from all six Island towns. Annual town meeting voters will decide whether to approve the spending.

Mr. Hart told selectmen that private fundraising is up more than double the amount raised last year, and new courses are generating additional revenue, allowing ACE MV to reduce its request for support. The six Island towns appropriated $90,000 last year for adult education classes.

Selectmen approved a recommendation from the shellfish committee that will allow fewer harvesting days for commercial scallop fishermen, but is intended to help protect the fishery. Scallop harvesting will now be restricted to days when the temperature reaches 30 degrees by 10 am. Previously, the allowable temperature was 28 degrees. At that temperature, undersized or seed scallops can freeze and die on deck before they are culled and returned to the water.  “Twenty-eight degrees is exactly the temperature that salt water freezes, it’s right on the line,” shellfish constable Paul Bagnall told selectmen.

Bagnall told selectmen that the 30-degree threshold will help protect young scallops for future harvest.

Finally, chairman Art Smadbeck read a letter from Comcast that alters the original requirement for the cable company to provide service to Chappaquiddick residents.

Under a deal that took more than two years to negotiate, Comcast agreed to extend its cable infrastructure to Chappaquiddick if 270 households paid an advance construction deposit of $2,139 each. Chappaquiddick community leaders predict that only about 200 residents will sign up by the December 19 deadline, but Comcast now says it will allow the Chappaquiddick Community Fund to make up any deficit with private fundraising.

Chappaquiddick resident Woody Filly said the adjustment to the original requirements may convince undecided homeowners that the project will go forward.  

“We hope that anyone who is sitting on the fence, deciding to sign up, this is it, this is the final act,” Mr. Filly said. “We’re hopeful that people who have been on the fence will make their decision.”