Thursday, December 9, 2010

In the News - library concert, Tri-County goes green, Charter craftiness

Children's concert at Franklin library

Franklin's Tri-County joins 'green' program

Franklin, MA

"No residents spoke about the tax rate"

Councilors could have shifted the burden to commercial properties by adopting a split tax rate. But, that could result in higher residential taxes next year because the values of commercial properties are dropping quicker than residential ones, said Chris Feeley, a member of the Board of Assessors.
"If in fact we had a dual tax rate last year, the residential rate would have gone up dramatically more," Feeley said. "The town by most standards does not have a big enough industrial or commercial base to warrant a dual tax rate."
Town Council Chairman Scott Mason said that was the most convincing argument to adopt a single tax rate.
Shifting the tax burden to commercial properties would also drive away businesses, especially small companies already battling increasing health insurance costs, said Jack Lank, president of the United Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"If you go with a dual tax rate, you might as well go up on 495 and put a sign that says Franklin is not business-friendly," Lank said.
Read the full article in the Milford Daily News

Franklin, MA

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Live reporting - Closing




Vallee - did you hear Cheli's comment about suing the EPA?
Nutting - it is getting out of control but it will cost some money with no guarantee of success
we are concerned about the time of implementation
at some point the town will have to come up with a payment via tax rate or a storm water fee

Vallee - will it come before the council?
Nutting - yes, it will. It has to be released so we can find out with the cost will be

O. EXECUTIVE SESSION – Negotiations, Litigation, Real Property, as May Be Required 

motion to go into executive session, approved 8-0

Franklin, MA

Live reporting - Legislation for Action

1. Resolution 10-70:Classification Tax Allocation– Residential Factor 
single rate approved, 8-0

2. Resolution 10-71:Classification Tax Allocation – Open Space Exemption 
motion to approve that there not be an exception for open space, passed 8-0

3. Resolution 10-72:Classification Tax Allocation – Small Businesses Exemption 
motion to approve that there not be an exception for small businesses, passed 8-0

4. Resolution 10-73: Classification Tax Allocation – Residential Property Exemption
 motion to approve that there not be an exception for residential property, passed 8-0

interruption to acknowledge an excess capacity for the tax levy, due to a rounding error.
Judy needed to sign a special document so the tax bills could begin to be processed.

6. Resolution 10-75: Appropriation – Fire Truck
requesting 100,000 to continue the funding process for a new truck

motion to approve, seconded

Taking money from the debt stabilization fund to close the account. The money had been put aside to work with the ten year capital plan, as the plan has come to an end, this money is being put to good use here

McCarragher - in the last tne years we have been reducing fleet size, rotational program to keep front line on for ten years, and in reserve for 10 years, the vehicle we are trying to replace is 20 years old. Insurance rating is required to have certain pumping capacity. The number of fires nationwide are decreasing but in MA they are not. Our experience in Franklin is static, we run the same amount each year. We are decreasing our fleet size

Vallee - i see numbers on the internet
McCarragher - we are working with two vehicle manufacturers to get to that point where we are not just fire trucks. The way we build fire trucks is against an old model. You still have to go to the marketplace, you still have to keep things service ready

McCarragher - 65% of our traffic is ambulance calls
Vallee - I think you should focus on hazmat and other vehicles
McCarragher - there is not a movement

Vallee - How many times has the new ladder truck been used?
McCarragher - are we looking to regionalization, yes it takes all to come to the table

Mason - How many times does that truck have to save someones life to be worth its expense?
McCarragher - We used the truck on Monday to get to the roof where the explosion occurred. I am not comfortable providing an answer on number?

Mason - I'll tell you, it is one.

Pfeffer - long approval of the need even in these times

Nutting - injuries to firefighters is also important, better equipment will avoid injuries. You don't see the cost but the Town will save money with safer firefighters. People always think of the citizens but we also think of the operations.

Kelly - You may see the shiney red fire truck but it doesn't show the rotting out on the inside. It was a tough decision on the capital committee but I think this was a good one.

Whalen - for a town this size to have a first rate fire dept. On the one hand, we are taking out 100,000 to put aside for a unit that would we man?

McCarragher - you are not putting the money out the door, it is being moved from one account to another account.

Passed 7-0-1 via roll call, Vallee - abstained

8. Resolution 10-77: Appropriation – Demolition of House on DelCarte Property 
motion to amend to $16,000
The amount of $24,000 was initial a open bid
The $16,000 came from the DPW doing the work in-house

price for asbestos abatement and tank removal was $6,000 and bid separately
It is 2 stories, about 1400 sq feet built 50 years ago 

taking out the foundation and backfilling and leveling

Passed 8-0

Franklin, MA

Live reporting - Tax hearing

F. HEARINGS - Annual Tax Classification Hearing – 7:10 PM

Ken Norman, Chris Feeley,  Kevin Doyle, Director of Assssors
Missing Vinny Debaggis, had a fall, fracturing his hip, he is doing well. He is hoping to be home by Christmas

This is the year for a tri-annual revue. The State reviewed our methods, books, etc and we did very well.

You have a set of documents with details.
Town valuation is 4.2 billion
The tax rate would be $12.95/thousand

Mason - there seems to be some level of confusion around how the tax rate is achieved, can you explain?
Doyle - the levy limit is determined, plus the 2.5%, plus the new growth provides a total
This year growth is 513,322
We also add the prior debt exclusions (approx. $1.2 million)
these total to the levy amount we are authorized to raise

The total of appraisals value by classification is calculated

Nutting - the drop is assessed value has caused the increase the rate from the peak of over 5 billion assessed value in 2007

Norman - residential property is easy to calculate as there is sufficient turnover, the commercial/industrial properties turn over less frequently so there are different valuation processes defined by the MA DOR

Feeley - the state comes in to review our numbers before they are published for our town review period. We have to meet their qualification before the number is approved

Jones - Can you explain the difference in decline for residential and 2-3 family

Mason - Is there a number of vacant business properties?
Doyle - I think you would get a better number from the Planning Dept

Nutting - Brian (Taberner) did a survey and has that information.

Powderly - single versus single?
Norman - yes, the calculation is shown as if there was a single tax rate.

Feeley - we are not recommending either way? If we had done a split rate last year, the residential rate would be increasing this year more than the single tax rate would be.

Pfeffer - What would you recommend?
Feeley - as a Board we are not making a recommendation, personally I would not recommend it
Norman - It is not our charge, we are supposed to calculate the assessments, it is a political decision to determine single or split tax rate

Jack Lank - President of the United Regional Chamber of Commerce, 95% of the business are small businesses, mom and pop operations. If you go with a split rate, you might as well put up a sign on i495 saying we are not business friendly. With the challenge for implementing the EPA regulations, the businesses will be hard pressed.

closing the hearing

My analysis of the tax information is available here

Franklin, MA

Live reporting - Town Council

Present: Kelly, Jones, Vallee, Whalen, Mason, Pfeffer, Zollo, Powderly
Absent: McGann

A. APPROVAL OF MINUTES – November 17, 2010
motion to approve, passed 8-0








5. Resolution 10-74: Appropriation – Capital 2011

Finance Committee approved 9-0
motion to approve,  seconded

Capital Subcommittee met several nights, first time where we have had over 2.1 million in free cash
we are only proposing 800,000 for capital; holding back some for the snow/ice and for unemployment expenses (pending layoffs if an override for FY 2012 doesn't pass).

will add doc from MA DOR on "free cash"
free cash has gone down from over 5% to just over 2% an indication of better management of the voerall budget process
the free cash percent of budget is below the state average

This is the smallest capital budget in a long time.
Police, Fire equipment, money for roads, some items for the schools

Whalen - concerned about the amount being so low, will there be more need next year?
Nutting - DPW didn't ask for any vehicles this year, maybe they will next year; Fire Dept has a truck need that we need to speed up the funding for, School have some requirements that are being addressed

Kelly - thanks to all the departments for coming forward with their needs, putting their wants aside

Mason - thanks to the committee for the hard work. We are accused of not tightening our belt, this is indeed 

Passed 8-0, unanimous via roll call

7. Resolution 10-76: Authorization to Borrow – Repairs & Remodeling to Various School Buildings 
motion to approve, seconded

The capital committee did recommend this as well as the FINCOM. It is a pretty boring list. Covering electrical and heating requirements, etc around the schools

We have room in our debt capacity for putting this on line in 2013, almost 500,000 of debt capacity
proposal to pay it off over ten years and tweak it accordingly

keep our biggest investment up to date

Jones - this is one of those investments in the school system to keep the facilities functioning properly

Vallee - Are you concerned about our debt?
Nutting  - are debt is actually declining, we will not use this for a couple of years. we will have room

The rating agencies like to see no more than a specific level we are well under that, they also like to see investment in infrastructure so we don't face these bills all at once

Mason - some of these items have been put off for years but the time has come

Passed 8-0 via roll call

Franklin, MA

Weight is a key measure

When I volunteered to help the Franklin Food Pantry for the "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive in May, I learned that the weight of food in and out of the pantry is one of the key measures. All food purchased or donated to the pantry is weighed. The total weights are recorded as a measure of how much was processed.

The freshness dates, or 'use by dates' are also checked. If the date has not expired, the food is kept. If the date has expired, the food is tossed into the trash. (Yes, this still bothers me and I don't fully understand all the rules and regulations on this matter so I won't spend much more time on it here. Research is underway to help understand the hows and whys.)

The pounds in less the pounds of 'spoilage' equal the net receipts. For the Saturday in May when the Franklin Post Office delivered all the food collected in their rounds of mail delivery,  the Pantry netted 3,869.5 pounds of food. The total received was 4,746.7 of which 877.2 was out dated and tossed aside.

Compared to the one day in May, the month of November yielded over 24,000 pounds of food from a variety of sources. The summary of services provided for the month and an outline of where the Food Pantry is headed is contained in this handout provided to folks who stopped by during the Open House at last week's Holiday Stroll:

Franklin Food Pantry - November 2010 Status

If you would like to help, these are the items that the Pantry can use at this time.

  • Cleaning Products - Laundry, Dish, Disinfecting etc.
  • Paper Products - Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Napkins, Paper Towels etc.
  • Health & Beauty Care - Shampoo, Soap, Razors, Deodorant, Feminine, Hand Sanitizer etc.
  • Cereal
  • Broth
  • Beef stew
  • Potatoes (can or dry)
  • Flavored rice and/or pasta mixes
  • Canned pasta (chef boyardeeish)
  • Baking mixes
  • Spices
  • Crackers
  • Jelly
  • Canvas bags

If the food has a freshness date, please check to see that it is current before making your donation. This will save time for the volunteers as they weigh, sort and stock the shelves before the food is distributed.

You can also make a monetary donation directly through the Pantry website via Google Checkout. You don't need a Google account to use this to process your transaction securely.

Note: I am volunteering some of my time as Community Information Director for the Franklin Food Pantry.

Note: email subscribers will need to click through to Franklin MAtters to view the document

Franklin, MA

In the News - response times, Adirondack holiday fair, handbell concert

Rescue response times to edges of Franklin not good

from The Milford Daily News News RSS 

Adirondack Club hosts Holiday Fair

Franklin, MA

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

FM #79 - Slidecast - Tax Hearing Info for FY 2011

This internet radio show or podcast is number 79 in the series for Franklin Matters.

In this session, you give me about ten minutes (actually 13 in this case) and I'll fill you in on what matters in Franklin.

Show notes:

In particular, we'll prepare for the Town Council meeting Wednesday, Dec 8th, where the big item on the agenda will be the annual tax classification hearing beginning at 7:10 PM.

This is the time and place where the Town Council determines (1) to keep a single tax rate or decides to implement a split tax rate and (2) sets the actual rate.

I have reviewed the data provided by the Board of Assessors for this hearing. I have also spent some time on the Dept of Revenue website updating my files with historical data on Franklin's budget, tax rate, etc.

I have updates last year's slides to share information that I think will help us all understand the overall situation.

Page 2 shows how the tax rate is calculated. Starting with the levy limit from 2010, 2.5% is added. Based upon Prop 2.5%, up to this amount can be added without a special override election. The growth from last year is added. This provides a subtotal. Any prior debt exclusions are added and this provides the maximum levy limit. We can technically achieve this due to rounding factors on the rates. So we have what they call an “excess levy capacity” of $35, 647. This leaves us with the tax levy, the amount that Franklin is authorized to raise this year. The amount is divided by the total assessed values of all the residential, commercial, industrial and personal property.

The package has a number of pages devoted to the property analysis of the residential, CIP to get to this value. The major factor to remember is that due to the overall economic conditions, property values are declining. Divide any number by a declining number and the percent will increase.

Page 3 shows the tax rate as it has varied throughout the years from 1988 to 2011. I really shouldn't use a line to depict the point in time number for each year, but it is much easier to view the data this way. The tax rate high point was in 1997 when it was 14.21% and the low point (in the period shown) was 8.86% in 2007. I find it interesting that the tax rate dropped for ten years in a row (from its peak in 1997), has gone up for the past 4 years, and yet all you hear about is our tax problem?

There are many reasons for the increases shown. I don't have all the information to explain nor do I have the time this week to do so. What I can show on Page 4 is how the assessed value effects the tax rate. The reddish bars in this case depict the NET change in assessed total value of all the properties in Franklin. Since 2006 the commercial industrial assessed values have been in a decline. In 2006 and 2007, the new grown for CI covered the decline in valuation so there was a net grown for CI. But for 2008, 2009, 2010 and for FY 2011, the new growth has not been able to cover the decline in valuation. More importantly, on the residential side, the decline in valuation has far exceeded the new growth. Hence the overall decline in total assessed values has dropped from 4.9 billion in 2007 to 4.1 billion for FY 2011. With less of a tax base upon which to levy the same amount of tax revenue, guess what, the tax rate will increase. The decline in overall assessed values has driven the increase for 2008, 2009, 2010 and will do so again in 2011.

Well, Page 5 more clearly shows what our tax problem is. The numbers on this chart depict the average tax bill for the period 1988 through 2010. As you can see from the reddish bars, in no year did the average tax bill decrease. The tax rate line from Page 4 is also shown here. Clearly, the tax rate whether it goes up or down seems to have little effect on the tax bill. It is always going up.

Page 6 - shows a table showing the residential vs. commercial/industrial property mix since 1999. It has varied a little each year but generally around 80% residential and 20% commercial/industrial. The high point for residential was 82.12 in 1988 and the low point was 77.04 in 1993.

Page 7 shows the same numbers in a chart format. As there is so little variance, I think this more clearly depicts the small range that the commercial/industrial and residential split has had over the years.

Why did I spend time on the CI vs Residential split? I can hear some folks now saying “let's go with a split tax rate”. With kind of property mix we have, a split tax does not solve our problem. See, the split tax does not increase overall tax revenues, it only shifts the proportion of the pie that each party pays as shown on Page 8. For a single dollar decrease in residential property tax, the CI increase would need to be $4. We don't need to shift the tax burden from one to another. We need to grow the overall tax base. We need a bigger pie.

The best opportunities for grow come from the underutilized CI space we have. You should be aware of the efforts of Bryan Taberner and others in the Department of Planning and Community Development. The Economic Summit held at the former Putnam facility on Washington is a key example of this effort. They are busy working to market the attractiveness of Franklin for CI uses. This is where we need to develop. We don't need additional residential properties which would further burden the school system. In particular, the residential growth we have seen recently has been mostly in the rental unit arena and that is even worse for Franklin than a single family home. We need healthy growth in CI properties to provide tax revenues and provide some jobs for local residents.

Page 9 provides information on the sources of the data that I used to prepare this.
Page 10 provides my contact information if you have any questions or would like to review this further.

One page in the appendix that charts the “free cash” to “free cash as a percent of the overall Town budget. I think the current administration has done very well in reducing the fluctuations that can be seen over the years. The big spike in FY 2001 I believe is likely related to the settlement that the Town won. It ended up in “free cash” before the Town Council moved it to the Stabilization Fund.

For the week ahead:

Town Council meeting Wednesday

Cyberbullying event at Dean College on Thursday. Perry Aftab and the teenangels from the Franklin School District will be presenting an information for parents on bullying.

I would encourage you to participate in these events.

Thank you for listening!

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana" c. Michael Clark and Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission

I hope you enjoy!

Note: email subscribers will need to click through to Franklin Matters to view this slidecast.

Franklin, MA

"one of the issues is no one can tell us what the ballpark is"

Jessica Strunkin, manager of public policy and public affairs for the 495 MetroWest Partnership, said she would like to see businesses and government work together to solve the problem.
"I think some type of collaborative approach would be more efficient," Strunkin said after the meeting. "Everyone can pool their resources and it might cost less."
Jack Lank, president of the United Regional Chamber of Commerce, said public outreach will be key to coming up with a manageable funding plan.
"I think (a stormwater utility) is almost inevitable," he said after the meeting. "No matter how we look at it, this is an unfunded mandate and we're going to be footing the bill."
Read the full article in the Milford Daily News

Prior posts on the proposed EPA regulations about storm water

Franklin, MA

"Official statistics underestimate obesity"

From Business Insider we find these 15 shocking facts about obesity:
Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions. It’s the plague of the 21st century.
Meanwhile, America’s become so politically correct that it’s almost impossible to discuss the ”sensitive” issue in depth. Official statistics underestimate obesity, and interest groups are content this issue isn’t addressed properly.
Insider Monkey, your source for free insider trading data, compiled 15 shocking facts that you didn’t know about obesity.
Click here to see the facts >

Franklin, MA

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Split tax vs. single tax rate

At the tax hearing set of the Dec 8th Town Council meeting, the annual discussion on a single vs split tax rate will come up again. Some information to help you determine which you would prefer can be found here:

1 - From a report done on a recent proposal for California:

To determine the economic impact of adopting a split-roll property tax, one must explicitly take account of how the split roll would affect the behavior of individuals and businesses who own commercial property. A wealth of economics research has demonstrated that, when confronted with an increase in state taxes, businesses seek to avoid their exposure to the higher tax. Taken together, these studies indicate that a 1 percent increase in state taxes will lead to a 0.25-0.31 percent reduction in the level of economic activity. If the reduction leads to corresponding decrease in employment opportunities for Californians, a 1 percent increase in taxes would result in the loss of about 43,000 jobs.
The economic impact of an increase in the taxation of business property depends on the extent to which affected businesses can pass-on the tax to their customers (through higher prices), renters (through higher rents), their employees (through lower wages), or their suppliers. If a firm cannot pass-on the tax to others, it may change its mode of operations to use less taxable property (capital goods, for example) or relocate its operations to other states. Either way, much (but not all) of the burden of higher taxes will be borne by others. Generally speaking, owners of capital are more likely than landowners to avoid the increased tax burden by shifting their investments elsewhere. Capital is highly mobile; land is very immobile, and cannot be relocated to locations with a more benign tax system.
The full report can be found here (PDF)

The article discussing this report can be found here

2 - Pennsylvania is making progress on a different kind of split tax rate. Their method is described as follows:

    The property tax is actually two types of taxes - one upon building values, and the other upon land values. This distinction is an important one, as these two types of taxes have significantly different impacts on incentive motives and development results.
    Pennsylvania's pioneering approach to property tax reform recognizes this important distinction between land and building values through what is now known as the split-rate or two-tier property tax. The tax is decreased on buildings, thereby giving property owners the incentive to build and to maintain and improve their properties, and the levy on land values is increased, thus discouraging land speculation and encouraging infill development. This shifting of the tax burden promotes a more efficient use of urban infrastructure (such as roads and sewers), decreases the pressure towards urban sprawl, and assures a broader spread of the benefits of development to the community as a whole.

You can read the full article here
Another summary of this new split rate process can be found here

3 - To come a little closer to home, the Boston Globe covers the issue with this article from Jan 2009

Among 37 area communities between Newton and Shrewsbury, 13 tax commercial properties at a different, higher rate than homes. Having a split tax rate provides flexibility in raising revenue amid fluctuating real estate values, officials say, and eases the tax burden on residents. But for small businesses struggling in a sour economy, it can feel like a double whammy.
"It's a really delicate balance between taxation of residents and businesses," said Peter Bulian, a selectman in Needham, where the commercial tax rate rose 3.4 percent, from $18.92 to $19.56 per $1,000 in assessed value, for this fiscal year, while the residential rate went up 2.6 percent, from $9.70 to $9.96.
"Last year, we had a business district with 40 percent vacancies," he said, referring to the New England Business Center on Highland Avenue. "They were hurting, and landlords pass along tax increases to their tenants."

4 - The United Regional Chamber of Commerce has also weighed in with 20 Reasons Not to Implement a Dual Tax Rate

Finally, I have the numbers to update my summary of the tax rate process posted last year. Last year's version can be found here. The slide cast combines a slide show presenting the data and charts with a recording of my explanation of what each slide depicts. I hope to have that update ready for Tuesday.

You can view the full set of documents for the Town Council agenda here (PDF)

Franklin, MA

Franklin, MA: Town Council - Agenda - 12/8/10

A. APPROVAL OF MINUTES – November 17, 2010





F. HEARINGS - Annual Tax Classification Hearing – 7:10 PM




1. Resolution 10-70:Classification Tax Allocation– Residential Factor
2. Resolution 10-71:Classification Tax Allocation – Open Space Exemption
3. Resolution 10-72:Classification Tax Allocation – Small Businesses Exemption
4. Resolution 10-73: Classification Tax Allocation – Residential Property Exemption
5. Resolution 10-74: Appropriation – Capital 2011
6. Resolution 10-75: Appropriation – Fire Truck
7. Resolution 10-76: Authorization to Borrow – Repairs & Remodeling to Various School Buildings
8. Resolution 10-77: Appropriation – Demolition of House on DelCarte Property





O. EXECUTIVE SESSION – Negotiations, Litigation, Real Property, as May Be Required


Franklin, MA

"new systems to control the runoff"

"This (meeting) is to keep the information flowing," Bellingham Town Administrator Denis Fraine said. "The proposed regulations are going to be costly, and the more we understand what our limitations are, the better it will be in the long run from a financial perspective."
Milford Selectman Brian Murray said the presentation is important for town officials and business owners, but efforts to fight the regulations need to continue.
"This is almost like the tail wagging the dog," Murray said. "It means we buy into these regulations, and I refuse to buy into the science of it and the unfairness of targeting three towns."

Read the full article in the Milford Daily News:

Three meetings set to review stormwater mandate for Bellingham, Milford, Franklin

Prior posts on the proposed EPA regulations about storm water

Franklin, MA