Letter To The Editor: Claims Belmont Overtax Property Below $1 Million ‘Untrue And Misleading’ – Assessors

Photo: The Assessors before the Select Board (from left) Martin Millane, Robert Reardon and Charles Laverty III

Dear Editor:

The Town of Belmont Board of Assessors has recently received information being circulated by a group calling themselves the “Citizens for a Fiscally Responsible Belmont” in which it is claimed that the Fiscal Year 2020 Assessments overtax properties under $1,000,000 in assessed value and under tax higher-end properties. The information used to make these claims is untrue and misleading and does not adhere to the actual assessment process which is regulated, reviewed, audited, and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue on an annual basis. The Board of Assessors has a long and exemplary record of fairly and equitably administering the Massachusetts General Laws to all taxpayers of Belmont.

Current assessments are historical which is a requirement of Massachusetts General Laws.  The Fiscal Year 2020 (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020) assessments are based on an effective date of 01/01/2019 based on sales information that occurred during the calendar year 2018. The effective date of assessment is based on the information on file in the assessing office based on inspections and reviews of every property in town.  Therefore, the fiscal year 2020 assessed values are as of Jan. 1, 2019, and are do not reflect the value of a property today.   

The report being circulated uses sales that have occurred in Calendar Years 2019 and 2020 compared against assessments that were based on 2018 sales.  The activity in these years is the basis for the upcoming assessments in the Fiscal Year 2021 (effective this upcoming January) and Fiscal Year 2022. Additionally, the sales in the report show no adjustment for changes in the Belmont Market and there are no adjustments for changes made to the properties after Jan. 1, 2019 (permits and renovations).  

The following table is from one of the many reports required and reviewed by the Department of Revenue to obtain certification.  


Fiscal Year 2020 Sales Ratios

Sale RangeSales RatioCODNumber
Q1$674,000 to $975,0000.951.8935 Sales
Q2$980,000 to $1,202,0000.951.4835 Sales
Q3 $1,206,000 to $1,512,5000.951.2735 Sales
Q4$1,515,000 to $5,500,0000.951.2434 Sales

The sales are segmented into four quartiles by sales price. The next column, sales ratio, is the assessed value divided by the sales price, which results in the assessment level. The Commonwealth requires that assessments are within 90 percent to 110 percent of sales. All four quartiles are at 95 percent which infers that than assessments are at 95 percent of market value in Fiscal Year 2020. The COD column is a further statistical test known as Coefficient of Dispersion which weighs, in short, the quality of the data set.  The Commonwealth requires that this be less the 10. The Belmont assessments are under 2.  The last column is the number of sales analyzed in each quartile. 

It is important to note that the Department of Revenue sets all guidelines and regulations for assessing in the Commonwealth. All communities are required to adhere to the same rules and procedures and Assessors are under oath to uphold these practices.    

A full version of the report above, as well as other reports used in the Certification Process, are available on the Belmont Board of Assessors’ website.

The Belmont Board of Assessors

Robert Reardon; chair, Charles Laverty III; vice-chair, Martin Millane; secretary.

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Comments

  1. Stephanie Liu says

    Speaking of transparency and plain-English communications, here’s the link to the assessors’ letter that came with last December property tax bill with record-breaking assessment increases at around 20%-35%.
    https://www.belmont-ma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif2801/f/uploads/fy2020_debt_exclusion.pdf
    … “The tax bill, which you received, includes the $295,000,000.00 debt exclusion approved by the voters on November 6, 2018. This debt exclusion temporarily increases the average tax bill by approximately 6.0 percent above and beyond the annual Proposition 2½ percent increase…”

    So, after reading the assessors’ letter and the irrelevant charts for the drastic tax increases:

    (1) Would you know the tax bill you received in December does not cover the entire debt exclusion, but ONLY the first half of the debt exclusion funding?

    (2) Would you know the tax increase for the second half debt exclusion that you will receive in December is equally large? (see Reardon’s comments in the same link on (4).

    (3) Would you know the “temporary increase” is 30 YEARS?

    (4) Would you know, the 6% plus the annual 2.5% increase stated in the letter somehow correlates to — the average tax bill for FY20 was increased by 11% ($1,415) and average assessment was increased by 18% ($195,000)? see Reardon’s comment below:
    http://belmontonian.com/news/as-fy-21-tax-rate-falls-average-tax-bill-jumping-11-as-high-school-debt-exclusion-kicks-in/

    (5) A correction — in the assessors’ short letter, it stated the $295,000,000 debt exclusion.. the debt exclusion was actually $213,000,000. Funding for the rest of the $295M School Project was from the town’s rainy day funds and state reimbursements.

  2. Marie Warner says

    Question for the BOS and the Assessors: If the assessments are fair and accurate, why are homes below the Belmont median value of $1.2 million selling for UNDER their recently assessed value? There are two possible reasons for this 1) the market value of homes in Belmont is falling — not increasing as claimed in this press release by Mr. Reardon. 2) The assessment is flawed.

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