Fiscal Resources Task Group - Feb 17th, 2022
Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/29048/18.
These notes cover a subset of agenda items.
Inspections and Assessment Process Report Discussion
Patriot properties provides Arlington's assessment database, and they also visit and inspect homes. Prior investigations into the frequency of inspections indicate that around 10% of properties haven't been visited in the past ten years. On top of this, there are numerous properties that haven't received an internal inspection. The group discovered that there are very few cases where property owners deny access.
Arlington's assessor, Paul Tierney, has gone on to work for another municipality. It sounds like Arlington will be looking for a new assessor.
The group performed an earlier study which used GIS and assessors data to look at assessed values by area of the town.
We've learned about the assessor's process for recording new growth, and that it may take a year or so before major improvements are factored into a property's assessed value.
Cities and towns have to do full reassessments every ten years, and computer-based modeling during the interim years. We don't know if there are requirements for how often interim adjustments are done.
Members of the group would like to improve the level of transparency around how and when new growth is added. It would also be useful if there were a document that explained what the different fields on a property card mean, and how they're used to determine a property's assessed value. Ultimately, we'd like to ensure that new growth is recorded fairly, and in a timely manner.
Inspectional services recently instituted a change in their permitting process. Contractors have to sign an affidavit stating that the estimated cost of work is accurate. We've seen a 50% increase in permit fees since this change was introduced. We don't know how the building permit's estimated value of work translates into the amount of new growth recorded, or if it does at all.
It may be useful to inspect properties after they're sold. This could be an effective way to capture new growth when homes are torn down and rebuilt.
It might be useful for the town to publicize/educate residents and contractors about the kinds of work that require a building permit, and the penalties for doing unpermitted work. Perhaps the penalties for doing unpermitted work should be higher.
In terms of capturing new growth, it might make sense to focus on home replacement, renovations that increase the square footage, and renovations that add major amenities (e.g., adding a new bathroom).
The group hopes that the Arlington Redevelopment Board will be able to change zoning to allow more commercial development and new commercial growth. There was concern that the ARB tries to micromanage building projects too much, with a Chase Bank proposal being cited as a specific example.