Selectmen, following a presentation at their meeting on Monday, July 28, expressed mixed feelings about implementing a state law that would allow a residential tax exemption.
Approximately 5,776 Mashpee taxpayers, including 151 year-round residents, would not benefit from the exemption, compared with 4,876 who would benefit to varying degrees. The program, which would allow selectmen to adopt a maximum 20 percent residential tax exemption, is intended to provided relief for residents with lower property values.
“Not everyone benefits by the same dollar figure,” director of assessing Jason R. Streebel said. “Those at the lower end of the property valuations receive greater benefits of tax savings than those at the higher end properties.”
In fact, the owners of properties above the median assessed value of $819,000 would see varying degrees of taxation increases. 1
The presentation by Mr. Streebel was the culmination of efforts by a working group established last month to research and analyze the impact of the tax exemption on the town. The group included Mr. Streebel, selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb, town manager Joyce M. Mason and treasurer Craig F. Mayen.
Prior to the meeting, the working group provided the board with written answers to frequently asked questions, letters from municipalities with residential exemptions, a fiscal year 2014 study identifying pros and cons of implementing the program, and a letter from the board of assessors, among other documents.
The process of calculating estimations of taxpayers who would qualify is extensive, Mr. Streebel explained, and the process would need to begin as soon as possible if the town decides to implement the exemption as early as fiscal year 2016. The current estimations of residents who would benefit are based on fiscal year 2014 data and assume 100 percent participation—which he said is unlikely.
“As the other towns [that have exemptions] have found out, not everyone is going to come and sign up for it if they have to apply for it,” Mr. Streebel said.
To apply, taxpayers are required to provide the board of assessors with a completed state application form and the first page of their federal tax return as proof that they are Mashpee residents. If they do not have either, the board would have to develop an alternate set of criteria.
Chairman Wayne E. Taylor expressed concern about residents being required to provide their tax returns, and Mr. Streebel said that is was the only form of statutory proof of taxpayers’ residency. Mr. Taylor also pointed to disapproving letters on the exemption from the Mashpee, Tisbury and Barnstable boards of assessors, and though Mr. Gottlieb maintained that most assessors would be less than enthusiastic about a program that creates work for them and garners mostly negative feedback, the chairman left the meeting with questions unanswered.
“What does it mean to the average homeowner?” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday, July 29. “From the way it is going and the letters we’ve seen from other communities, it doesn’t seem like a good idea.”
The selectmen decided to hold an additional forum on the exemption for the public on August 18. The time and location have yet to be determined.
Correction August 8, 2014, 2:21 PM:
1. That figure referred not to the median property value but was a sample base assessment representing the “break even point,” below which some taxpayers would benefit from the exemption to varying degrees, while taxpayers above that amount would pay more to varying degrees.