Assessors Clearify Article 9 Information

To the Editor:

Rochester’s Board of Assessors writes to correct misinformation that appeared in The Wanderer about the proposed change in the town’s tax billing procedure (“Officials Sign Off on Articles,” May 2). That article states, “The Board of Assessors supports a change,” which

misleadingly implies that the Assessors support Article 9 as it has been written to be presented to Town Meeting. Furthermore, the billing and payment due dates that appear in the article for the proposed “semi-annual preliminary tax billing” are incorrect. The Board of Assessors has discussed with other officials in recent years the option of improving the Town’s tax billing procedure without interest expressed by other officials. Now that other officials express an interest in changing when the Town sends its tax bills, however, the procedure that will least improve the Town’s revenue management is being imposed. The Assessors support changing to quarterly tax billing, but strongly oppose the proposed change to “semi-annual preliminary tax billing” that is called for in Article 9 in the warrant for the May 20Annual Town Meeting.

Quarterly tax billing serves both the town’s property owners and town’s government better than the proposed “semi-annual preliminary tax billing.” Quarterly tax bills enable tax payers to make payments in more manageable, smaller quarterly amounts according to a predictable schedule of due dates. Consequently, it also makes the town government’s cash flow more reliable and routine. Over 250 of Massachusetts’ 351 towns and cities now utilize quarterly tax billing, but only five towns use the billing method proposed by Article 9, according to the Dept. of Revenue. To illustrate the disadvantages of the “semi-annual preliminary tax billing” procedure, several towns ultimately changed to quarterly billing after trying the “semi-annual preliminary tax billing” procedure only to learn that is did not produce the routine cash flow that was expected. Importantly, banks and mortgage companies are more familiar with quarterly tax payments and routinely process tax escrow account payments accordingly.

A tax billing change will mean “more work,” whether for the tax collector or the assessors. But the proposed “semi-annual preliminary tax billing” will have the added and seriously detrimental effect of forcing systematically and annually onto the Board of Assessors the processing of the previous fiscal year’s abatement appeals in the same time frame that the assessors are occupied with preparing valuations for the next fiscal year. This is an untenable overlapping of complex processes. There simply are not enough man-hours available to do both at the same time and to do both well. Moving to the quarterly tax billing procedure will not have this undesirable effect on the assessment calendar, however.

The assessors have strongly urged the Selectmen, tax collector and town administrator to recognize the facts of the change in billing procedure and to make the necessary resources available to the tax collector to manage the change. Despite the combined expertise of over 110 years of experience in assessing and tax administration, facts presented by the assessors to other officials appear to be ignored. Quarterly tax billing is the procedure that objectively and factually is in the taxpayers’ and town government’s best interest. The Board of Assessors urges fellow Rochester taxpayers to vote, “no” on Article 9 at Town Meeting. That way, taxpayers and town government can better prepare and manage the subsequent change to quarterly tax billing.



Jana Cavanaugh

Diana Knapp

John Mello

Rochester Board of Assessors


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