Thursday, August 11, 2022

Annual Report Of The Board Of Assessors - FY 2021

Note: FY 2021 is last year (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021). The report was prepared to cover the business for the FY 2021 period. This year’s report FY 2022 (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022) is in preparation now and is normally available for distribution at the polls for the November election. Updated - 08/15/22

Interim Revaluation
The interim revaluation of all real and personal property in the Town of Franklin was completed Fall 2020 in preparation for Actual Fiscal Year 2021 3rd quarter tax bills. Following is a brief review of that achievement.

Data Collection
Nineteen years have now passed since we installed the real estate valuation and assessment administration software developed by Patriot Properties, Inc. Because our start-up data was from a different form of valuation system and most of our data had not been refreshed in nearly ten years, it was necessary to complete a town- wide data recollection program prior to finalizing the FY 2005 valuations. Patriot Properties was hired for this task. Over the past 16 years, our appraisal staff has performed the on-going property exterior measuring and interior inspecting for all real estate classes. Such reviews are done for the Department of Revenue (DOR) required cyclical program, as well as for building permitted changes, pre-appraisal, abatement and sales verifications.

Field Review
In addition to individual property on-site review, field reviews are required periodically to check for obvious data accuracy and consistency. This drive-by review provides another level of assurance that when valuation schedules are applied, the results will be “Fair and Equitable”.

Commercial/Industrial/Apartment Valuations Annually there are analyses of sales data as well as income & expense market data. The Board contracted Patriot to work with our Director to establish an income approach to value for each property. All requirements of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue were met through final approval of the FY 2021 valuations.

Sales Analysis
The majority of the sales analysis was completed by September 2020, and the interpretation of sales continued through the next two stages of valuation. The town-wide program resulted in a valuation system that was applied uniformly throughout the town, while reflecting all the adjustments warranted individually and by neighborhood, to result in “Full and Fair Cash Values” as per Massachusetts General Law.

Value Generation
A system of valuation was established based on valid property sales and where applicable the income approach to value. These schedules concluded from the market were then uniformly applied to all taxable and exempt real property.

Final Value Review
Final reviews were completed in preparation for the DOR review. These include studies of various computer-generated reports to check for value consistency, final field checks required, and for DOR documentation and its analyses.

DOR Review & Final Approval
Any on-site and statistical reviews by the DOR took place from April to October 2020. The appraisal staff provided files, generated property records, answered questions and addressed any concerns. At the conclusion of the DOR review, we were granted approval authorizing public disclosure.

Public Disclosure
The DOR approved valuations were available for disclosure to the property owners. While the administrative staff provided property record cards and general data reviews, the appraisers conducted informal hearings on valuations.

Personal Property Business assets and those of utilities are reviewed for valuation as taxable Personal Property. For twenty fiscal years we have engaged the specialized services of Real Estate Research Consultants (RRC) in the discovery and valuation of these accounts. These services have served us well, resulting in DOR approval and consistently defendable valuations. Also, considerable new growth has been certified annually. Additionally, the RRC Personal Property Software installed in our office has benefited us. The personal property valuation formulas are very straightforward, and the administrative capabilities have met our needs.

Classification Hearing & Tax Commitment Following some discussion and a few presentations relative to single versus split tax rates, the Council approved a single tax rate at
$14.65 per $1,000 of taxable value as calculated by the Board for all property classes. The tax commitment and mailing were timely for an actual 3rd quarter tax bill.

Abatement Reviews
Upon mailing of the tax bills and on or before the due date of the first actual bill, property owners have an opportunity to file an Abatement Application on the basis of overvaluation or misclassification. 40 abatements applications were filed of 11,671 taxable accounts, or just  
over 1/3 of 1%. Generally those with merit were resolved through our conducting a complete on- site exterior measuring and interior inspection. Usually a valuation discrepancy is the result of a data error or as a result of an inspection appointment not being arranged and thus the property data having been “estimated”.

Technology Improvements
In addition to our state-of-the-art software for the valuation and administration of both real and personal property, Cartographic Associates, now CAI Technologies of Littleton, NH has continued to maintain the digital/GIS-mapping program it first completed for us for FY 2005.
Following aerial photography and planimetric (physical features) mapping, CAI constructed cadastral tax maps (depicting parcels) through the use of over 5,000 plans and over 15,000 deeds. This new mapping program is annually updated and reconciled with our property records for consistency in both parcel inventory and land area. With the support of the Town Administrator, the Finance Director and the Town Council, we have capacity in our Patriot software to link and utilize the maps with our assessment data file and any other available location-based data. In addition, for the past sixteen years we have provided our tax maps on the web known as AxisGIS for the benefit of both the Town staff and the general public.

Appraisal & Administrative Staffing
The use of automation has minimized the former heavy burden of traditional data processing. Due to this and numerous other office improvements, the Town approved our Staff Restructuring Plan. We have adjusted our administrative support to be shared among the Appraisers who are responsible for continuing to improve our service to the public at the counter and by phone. They have focused these efforts on providing and reviewing public records, Motor Vehicle Excise Tax Commitments and Abatements, Exemption Applications, posting Building Permits and Sales and any other assignments as required. They have continued to train in rotation in various administrative duties and computer applications. The Appraisers have made special efforts in the development and implementation of usable written instructions for the assessing office procedures and for MUNIS financial software applications. These instructions were developed consistent with all Mass. General Law and DOR requirements, but are subject to frequent change due to various software enhancements.
We thank Kevin W. Doyle, Director of Assessing for his diligence especially as Director beginning following his first two years here. He has overseen the completion of all our work these past twenty fiscal years, six full revaluations and fourteen interim years of market adjustments. We also acknowledge the support work of Appraiser David Ruberti since July 2005, Appraiser Peter Mooney since August 2004, and Appraiser Susan Reagan since September 2019. Our Director received his Massachusetts Accredited Assessor (MAA) in 1990 and the MAAO Wilson Award in June 2013. Within the past fourteen years all three Appraisers completed their designation required education and experience, being granted their MAA designations and maintaining their periodic recertifications.

Town Revenue Enhancements
In addition to meeting all state requirements as well as daily office oversight, the Director and Appraisers have achieved many additional improvements to benefit the Town taxpayers. One such is the efficiencies built into the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax Commitment and Abatement processes in conjunction with the new MUNIS tax software installation. These excise taxes represent about 5 million dollars in locally raised annual revenue, or about 5 % of locally raised tax revenue. We assure the citizens that like real and personal property, taxes on these are assessed and abated appropriately and uniformly for the maximum benefit of all. Registry of Motor Vehicles’ automation aided the Director and Appraisers to further enhance revenue in assessing dealer and repair plate registrations.

As well, with the ongoing automation improvements of the Environmental Police, this professional staff successfully developed a new potential annual revenue stream in the identification and assessment of excise taxes on boats principally situated in Franklin.

On-site Periodic Property Reviews Because we have initiated the cyclical property re-measurement and re-inspection program acceptable to the Massachusetts DOR, we continue to make various public information efforts to assure property owners have advance information about this ongoing program.

Briefly, please note that the purpose of these property visits is to verify that the correct data is being used in the determination of valuations to achieve “full and fair cash value” in accordance with Mass. General Law Chapter 59. The Board appreciates the general public’s cooperation in its efforts to serve all property owners of all property types to assure fair and uniform values.

Your Elected Board of Assessors Before entering the performance of his/her duties, each Assessor upon election has taken the oath of office specific to assessors and assistant assessors. Massachusetts General Law has provided that because the DOR Commissioner of Revenue has regulatory oversight over assessing in every city and town, the Commissioner likewise determines the training requirements for the assessors and any assistants. At this time, the Commissioner has determined Course 101, including the Classification Training Workshop, meets the minimum requirements. The majority of the assessors and all four staff have completed these and have been certified as such by the MA Commissioner of Revenue.

The Board looks forward to continuing education opportunities offered by the MA DOR and the professional associations, the Massachusetts Association of Assessing Officers (MAAO), the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO), the Mass. Chapter of the IAAO, the Northeast Regional Association of Assessing Officers and the Norfolk-Suffolk Counties Assessors Association. The assessors have attended seminars and workshops to broaden and reinforce their understanding of property tax law.

In particular, the Board has focused on current and possible future tax relief and deferral options for Franklin’s elder citizens. To that goal following meetings of the Town Senior Outreach Committee, last fall the Board, its Staff and the Office of the Council on Aging continued a broad-based effort to reach seniors. This resulted in successfully providing tax relief (exemption) information to additional seniors who owned and occupied their homes.
Also, with the valued assistance of Veterans’ Agent Dale Kurtz, special efforts are continuously made to identify veterans and their surviving spouses entitled to state exemptions, much of it reimbursable to the Town by the State. We look forward to continuing to work with the Town Veterans’ Agent.

All these efforts are consistent with the Board of Assessors commitment to meet its challenges as key Town Financial Team members to the benefit of all the citizens of the Town of Franklin. The Assessing Department is officially a part of the Franklin Finance Division headed by Finance Director Christopher Sandini who also serves as Comptroller. We and especially our staff have been successfully coordinating efforts with Treasurer-Collector Kerri Bertone and look forward to continuing this cooperative and productive work with Chris and Kerri into the Town of Franklin’s future.

The close of Fiscal Year 2021 coincided with the announcement of retirement of long-time Veterans’ Agent Dale Kurtz who along with new Council on Aging Director Erin Rogers have been very helpful in this Board’s efforts to reach out to Franklin’s Veterans & Seniors assisting in preparing Property Tax Exemption Applications. The Board and the Staff express appreciation for Dale’s contributions and efforts over these past several years.

Considering the unexpected pandemic, an important and valuable addition to our Staff was made in September 2019 by appointing Sue Reagan as a new Appraiser. Sue came to us with a dozen years of experience in assessing, the past decade plus in Northborough following experience in neighboring Medway. Her experience and contribution to our Staff has complemented that of Dave and Peter. The three Appraisers are meeting the challenges of our industry and the needs of the Town of Franklin’s citizens, property owners, their agents, Town Officials and Employees, and the Public at large.

As we write, the Board of Assessors and its Staff are preparing to finalize the Real and Personal Property Appraisal files for the Fiscal Year 2022 Revaluation Year subject to DOR review and Final Approval. This Revaluation is Franklin’s first since the State modified the cycle from three to five years, thus it follows four Interim Year Updates. After completion of this program, the next four years will be Interim Year Adjustments and FY 2027 will be the next Revaluation.

Meanwhile, with the cooperation of property owners, our property descriptive information on file will be continuously maintained and market- based valuation adjustments made annually.

Respectfully submitted,

W. Ken Norman, Chairman of the Board 
Christopher K. Feeley, Assessor, Clerk 
Daniel Ballinger, Assessor, Member Franklin Board of Assessors

The full Annual Report for 2021 can be found

The collection of Annual Reports can be found online

Annual Report Of The Board of Assessors - FY 2021
Annual Report Of The Town of Franklin - FY 2021

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