Category Archives: Uncategorized

Carbon tax forum at Unitarian Church

Taxing carbon (petroleum) will improve both the economy and the environment, per study done by REMI.  State Senator Barrett used that study as basis to introduce legislation to tax carbon in Massachusetts.  Carbon tax can be revenue neutral, when the government gives all the taxed monies back to the people.

Take away fact was that Massachusetts climate by 2100 will be like that of South Carolina now, due to climate change.

MMA meeting this morning

The Massachusetts Municipal Association is holding a briefing this morning on the current status of legislative issues at the Stoughton town hall.

More progressive property tax

This article came in the e-newsletter today from the DOR’s Division of Local Services, describing the residential exemption that towns can adopt that shifts real estate taxes from less valuable properties to more expensive properties and properties owned by non-residents.

Understanding the Residential Exemption
Tony Rassias – Bureau of Accounts Deputy Director

The residential exemption, MGL c. 59, s. 5C, is a not-oftentimes voted provision of the 1979 classification law that shifts the tax burden within the Residential class from the lower valued properties to the higher valued ones and to those owned by nonresidents. This article will take a look at the exemption’s requirements, how the exemption works and will conclude with some frequently asked questions of the Division of Local Services.

Exemption Requirements

The residential exemption may be voted annually by the board of selectmen or by the mayor with the approval of the city council. The vote is customarily taken at the annual classification hearing, but the vote may be taken prior to that time. In addition, the exemption:

  • By statute may be no more than 20 percent of the average assessed value of all class one, residential parcels;
  • Bay be applied to a residential parcel that is the owner’s principal place of residence as of January 1, as used for state income tax purposes;
  • May be granted in addition to any other exemptions allowable under MGL c. 59, s. 5 as well as in addition to the Community Preservation residential exemption;
  • May not reduce the taxable value of the property to less than 10 percent of its full and fair cash value, except through the application of the hardship exemption, and the exemption for paraplegic veterans and their surviving spouse.


In this example, the Total Residential Value (A) is divided by the Total Residential Parcel Count (B) to yield an Average Residential Value (C). This Average Residential Value (C) is then multiplied by the Selected Residential Exemption Percent (D) to yield the Residential Exemption (E).
On the Tax Rate Recap

Once the exemption has been calculated and voted, both the Total Residential Value (A) and the Total Residential Value minus Exemption (H) are transferred to the Tax Rate Recap.

The Total Residential Value (A) is used to calculate the classification percentages and to determine Prop 2 1/2’s levy ceiling (Editor’s Note: For more information on the Levy Limit, please see our recent three part series on the subject.)

The Total Residential Value minus Exemption (H) is used to calculate the residential class tax rate. By reducing the Total Residential Value (A) by the Total Residential Exemption Value (G), the residential class tax rate will increase, the total tax levy for the residential class will remain the same and the property tax burden will shift as intended.

The Break-Even Point and the Burden Shift

The break-even point, or point of benefit neutral assessment, is that point (actually a dollar spread due to rounding) of assessed valuation less the exemption at which the tax burden for residential class properties begins to shift, i.e. when the residential class property taxpayer begins to pay less or more property tax than if the exclusion wasn’t voted at all.

Using the example from above, the Break-Even Point (I) can easily be calculated as the Total Residential Value (A), divided by the Number of Eligible Residential Parcels (F).
On the Tax Bill

Once the tax rate has been certified by the Bureau of Accounts, the exemption is applied to the 6,428 eligible residential parcels identified in F above on the first actual tax bill. A location on the front of the real estate tax bill must show the exemption amount and on the back the abatement application deadline. An aggrieved taxpayer who did not receive the residential exemption may file an application for abatement to the Board of Assessors within three months of the date the actual tax bill was mailed.

Example Properties

Now let’s look at four example residential properties and see how the break-even point and the residential exemption work. Let’s assume a residential tax rate of $11.32/000 without the exemption and $13.06/000 with the exemption.

As shown in Chart 1, Property #2 shows the break-even point and a “neutral” tax bill, with or without the exemption. Property #1, which is below that point, has a tax savings with the residential exemption while Property #3, which is above that point, has an additional cost with the exemption. Property #4 belongs to the nonresident and although below the break-even point, has a greater cost than the higher valued Property #3 because the nonresident does not receive the exemption.

Chart 1

Communities with the Exemption

Because it is an annual acceptance, the number of communities voting the exemption could vary each year. Generally, however, about the same communities vote the residential exemption each year and have for many years. The 13 communities that have voted the residential exemption for FY2014 are Barnstable, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Nantucket, Somerset, Somerville, Tisbury, Waltham and Watertown.

Communities voting the exemption can be characterized as large cities or towns with many non-owner occupied properties such as apartment buildings or investment properties and/or resort communities with many seasonal residents.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of application form is used to file for an abatement of the residential exemption?

The taxpayer may use the residential exemption application form approved by the Commissioner of Revenue or the regular abatement application form.

If a residential exemption is granted by the board of assessors after a properly filed application for abatement, what account is charged?

Because the exemption was sought by way of abatement, the Overlay is charged.

What are the qualifications for receiving the residential exemption?

The taxpayer must own the property (be the holder of record title) and occupy the property as their principal place of residence as of January 1, as used by the taxpayer for state income tax purposes. The exemption is not applied to summer homes or to accessory land incidental to a residential use. Determining eligibility could prove problematic and a disincentive to adopt the law at all. The community may want to delay adoption of the exemption for the first year, possibly even for one fiscal year, to allow for proper domicile and ownership research.

What if the applicant does not file an income tax return?

The board of assessors may use municipal records such as census data, street lists, voter records, motor vehicle registrations or licenses and other credible information in lieu of the tax return or may request other information from the taxpayer. It is recommended that the board consider creating a policy as to what type of information would be considered and apply the policy in a consistent and uniform manner.

Will this exemption help the elderly?

Be careful! Oftentimes the elderly convey their property to a trust where they may possibly lose legal and/or beneficial interest in the property and disqualify themselves from the exemption. Also, the elderly may own property valued greater than the break-even point. In these cases, voting the exemption to help them may in fact place an additional burden upon them.

If you need more assistance on this topic, you may review IGR 14-401 on the topic, try the Residential Factor Calculator on the DLS website or contact the Division of Local Services at 617-626-2300.

MFC Honoring Beth Eby 10/29


Beth Eby

Email today from the Medfield Food Cupboard’s Martha Sherman

As you may well have heard, Beth Eby is retiring as the president of the Medfield Food Cupboard after 17 years of leadership.

To honor Beth’s service there will be a reception at 8 pm on Wednesday, October 29 at the Church of the Advent (this is at the conclusion of the Food Cupboard’s Annual Meeting, and Beth’s last official act).

We’ve spread the word through our newsletter, volunteers, and via emails, but odds are that we have missed some people who might like to attend.  So please share this email with others who know Beth.

Although a rsvp is not necessary, it would help with our planning.

Thank you, and hope to see you on the 29th.

Martha Sherman

President Elect

Grant submitted

Alan Peterson, the Facilities Manager for the schools, put together a $500,000 grant application for a FY15 Community Innovation Challenge Grant that was submitted today, to centralize the management of all building for the town.  This is from the grant application -

The Grant will be used to purchase goods, services and software to provide easier Community use of School facilities and better energy management of Town Facilities.

A third party provider, under a DOER contract will provide a single Web-Based interface to schedule  and control building automation of all Public Facilities.

At present, each building’s heating, ventilation and cooling system control is ‘stand-alone’. Each system has is limitations, and most of the control systems do not allow component control or detail  trouble­ shooting.

The Web-interface will provide building occupants with comfortable temperatures based on planned use of spaces, and un-occupy spaces or buildings for energy savings, based on authorized input for  Snow days, holidays, etc. Improved control will result from retro-commissioning of the systems.

The interface will tie into each building’s main electric meter to log instantaneous power use, so a dashboard of energy use for all Town Buildings can be seen by the public. Where feasible, natural gas meters will be monitored also. Data will be easily manipulated on the Web dashboard to benchmark energy use against various standards.

Objectives of the initiative include improved performance of existing building control systems, broader application of best practices for energy conservation, improved comfort for employees and other building users, transparent accounting of energy units used and simplified auditing for commissioning [and retro­ commissioning] of building equipment and controls.
At present, only a few of the Town and School buildings have web-based operability, some areas of those buildings would benefit from retro-commissioning.  Most buildings have stand-alone operability, or intra­ net network control from other buildings on the same school network.
Shutting down building heating ventilation and cooling system equipment for holidays, snow days or creating special occupancies  requires a skilled building operator to make multiple site visits and use different operating platforms. The newly created Town-wide Energy Manager will find it challenging to interact with so many building control systems. The department personnel now
authorized to control building systems do not often share information about building control issues, so opportunities to learn best practices and to implement and measure improvements are infrequent. The new energy manager will improve that situation.

Efforts to improve building systems operation have included focused service contracts with the several contractors that support the various systems, and routine meetings with personnel operating those systems. Gaging the level of performance improvement is rather subjective at present, in part due to the manual monthly rollup and comparison of energy bills.

Upgrading to an ‘umbrella’ web-based interface will allow the present department personnel to continue to run their buildings, while allowing the Energy Manager to also have appropriate access and establishing a dashboard for any interested party to see.

This capital project will involve a series of one-time expenses, to be followed by changes in on-going service contracts. Part of the vetting process to select the vendor to implement this project will include projected pricing for service agreements after the project completion. These costs must be comparable to the present level of service costs for each involved department. We are
requesting that budget administrators use some of the savings realized from operation efficiencies realized by the project to cover newly incurred support costs.

The project must be sufficiently funded with seed money to allow completion of critical steps to assure a phased implementation will be successful, without requiring additional funding from already stressed
departmental capital budgets.


Tree City

This from Kristine Trierweiller -

The Medfield Board of Selectmen will vote to recognize Thursday, October 9, 2014 as Arbor Day in Medfield. In honor of this observance, the Medfield Board of Selectmen will dedicate the new street trees that have been planted on Main Street outside of Brothers Marketplace. Please join us for the ceremonial planting and reading of the Arbor Day Proclamation. Ceremony will take place at 446 Main Street at 9AM. The trees being planted are Ginkgo trees.

This will be the Town’s second Annual Arbor Day Declaration and is being done as part of the Tree City, USA program. The Town of Medfield was recognized earlier this year by the National Arbor Day Foundation and has achieved status as a Tree City, USA.  The Tree City USA program was created by the National Arbor Day Foundation to commend the efforts of tree preservation in American Communities. The program promotes forestry within the community as well as education and instilling a sense of pride in the community.

Youth Outreach position also open

The Medfield Youth Outreach office is seeking an MSW to fill an open position caused when Liz Loveless recently went to Needham.