Aquinnah raises tax levy 11.8 percent

Aquinnah selectmen Juli Vanderhoop and Gary Haley review the tax rate proposed by the Regional Resource Group.

Aquinnah selectmen agreed to set a single tax rate with an over $5 million levy to be raised at a tax classification hearing Thursday.

Last year’s tax levy in Aquinnah was set at $4,564,318, and this year’s official levy will be set at $5,105,195 — an 11.8 percent increase overall.

According to Aquinnah assessor Harold Scheid of the Regional Resource Group, much of the increase in the levy amount can be attributed to the voter approved debt exclusion and a Proposition 2½ override.

“We are going to take a bit of a hit this year,” Scheid said.

The tax rate for the town of Aquinnah was set at $6.81 per $1,000 for all property classes for FY2020, whereas last year’s rate was set at $6.12. 

The average residential tax bill calculation will increase by 11.2 percent, representing an average of $900, based on an average single family valuation of $1.3 million. Scheid said the assessors have not increased valuations on most property, and only those properties with new construction, additions, or major renovations have been increased.

Scheid explained how municipalities with a large commercial and industrial tax base attempt to shift the tax burden to maintain lower residential tax burdens, but Aquinnah has virtually no commercial tax base.

“It would take an approximate 38 percent increase in the commercial tax rate to yield even a 1 percent reduction in residential taxes,” Scheid said.

Juli Vanderhoop, chair of the board of selectmen, asked whether anything can be done to shift the tax burden away from year round residents.

“You are referring to a residential exemption. Some towns on the Cape have approved a residential exemption which provides some year-rounders with the potential for a tax break,” Scheid said. “It would shift the tax burden within the residential class.”

On Island, Tisbury is the only town to have a residential exemption.

For a full time resident, Scheid said whether or not you would receive a tax break is based on the value of your property.

“If you are on the high end of the value distribution you will pay more, if you are on the low end you will pay less,” Scheid said.

He also mentioned some administrative headaches involved with implementing a residential exemption. “This would be something we could possibly consider for the year following this one,” Scheid said.



  1. This incredible increase was completely predictable given last year’s significant increase. The town is totally mismanaged and is a fiscal wreck. Aquinnah is a very small, rural town but wants the services of a larger town. Note to Harold Scneid: while you are correct that the town has almost no commercial base, this is hardly new. It has always been that way so it’s inappropriate to blame that for soaring taxes. It’s far too much spending. Note to Julie Vanderhoop: the answer is not to stick it to the seasonal residents yet again. They pay plenty as is and get few services in return. Spending cuts are the only fair solution to Aquinnah’s fiscal mess.
    Using the above figures, the average single family home owner will pay close to $9,000/year in property taxes. How can any reasonable person not step back and recognize the absurdity of this?

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