Fiscal Resources Task Group - Jan 21st, 2021
Meeting conducted via remote participation. Meeting materials were available at https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/26425/18.
Gordon Jamieson summarized a conversation he had with Deputy Town Manager Sandy Pooler. Mr. Jamieson had asked if inspectional services or the assessors office were sufficiently staffed. The number of building permits has increased 26% since 2017, without a change to staffing levels in inspectional services. On the assessors side, Mr. Jamieson notes that many properties haven't had an interior inspection in years.
These questions were brought up by a desire to fully capture new growth in the tax levy. For example, if a homeowner puts an addition on their house, that addition should produce an increase in the property's assessed value, and the increase should be attributable to new growth. New growth is not subject to the levy limits imposed by MA proposition 2.5.
A number of attendees had done home improvement projects during the last year, and shared their experiences. Inspectional services generally quotes a three-week turnaround for building permit applications, though permits were often issued more quickly. Additionally, a single permit often requires numerous inspections during the construction process.
Attendees felt it would be useful to have metrics from other communities, to serve as a point of comparison. This would include the number of building permits, the number of inspectors, the time taken to process a permit application, and the ability of the assessor's office to provide a valuation for the improvement.
One member of the task group obtained a list of property assessments and used them to construct a predictive statistical model. The goal was to look at assessment variations across tax neighborhoods, and to look at the amount of variability within tax neighborhoods. Another motivation was to identify outlier properties that might be mis-assessed. An over-assessed property means that the owner is paying more taxes than they should (a fairness issue). An under-assessed property means the town is losing tax revenue. The model identified both low and high outliers in several tax neighborhoods.
(Had to leave the meeting at this point, due to a time conflict).