No Tax Delay In Belmont; Treasurer Will Work With Residents Seeking Assistance

Photo: Homer Building, Belmont Treasurer’s office

Belmont will not be joining a growing number of communities around the Commonwealth offering tax relief, including penalty waivers and deadline extensions, to residents in response to the COVID-19 crisis, according to town officials.

The Belmont Select Board will follow a request from Town Treasurer Floyd Carman not to follow the lead of Boston, Springfield, and towns such as Milford in pushing back real estate tax deadlines.

“We’ve been getting a lot of requests and comments” on extending the time residents can pay their taxes to June 1 rather than current May 1 deadline, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin told the Select Board at its Monday, April 13 remote meeting.

In an email to the board, Carman said the major reason for rejecting a delay is due to the likely contraction in cash flow entering town coffers. With Belmont expecting a rapid fall in certain revenue streams in the final quarter of the fiscal year, this is not the time to slow down payments.

Earlier in the meeting, Garvin told the board the town needs “some significant sufficient cash flow to be able to pay our bills until the end of the year because we don’t know over the next two and a half months what’s going to happen.”

Rather than a blanket date change, Carmen will work with residents on a case by case basis.

“The goal is for those members of the community that actually require some relief, there is the desire to collaborate … as opposed to just have an extra 30 days,” said Select Board Chair Tom Caputo.

If residents are having difficulties paying their taxes, they should contact Carman at his office (617) 489-8234) and he will work out a payment plan, according to the email.

Belmont’s ‘Triple A’ Worth Millions In School Bonding Market

Photo: Selectman Mark Paolillo signing the 30-year bond note.

Some may ask what’s the big deal if Belmont is a double or triple A? “Is there any real difference by having an added A to your name?” referring to the agencies which assign credit ratings for issuers of debt obligations, or bonds.

In Belmont’s case, that single letter was worth a cool six million in savings to property owners, according to Belmont Town Treasurer Floyd Carman who attended the Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, March 18.

“Let me start by saying we should all be proud of these results, we all contributed,” said Carman, referring to town and school officials and the board.

“This is why it is important for people to know the importance of the triple-A bond rating,” said Board Chair Adam Dash. 

Carman’s Monday visit was for the three-member board to sign off on 30-year bond notes that took place on March 12 totaling $108,100,000 that included $100 million in the first of three payments to build the new 7-12 school building which starts construction this June, $7.4 million for the renovation and expansion of the Belmont Police Department police station and $700,000 for the multi-year water main replacement program. The bonds attracted seven bidders and were sold at a 3.31 percent interest rate locked in for 30 years to JP Morgan.

Yet Belmont will only be financing $102,030,000 of that debt. According to Carman, the difference of $6,070,000 is what the town received in “premium money.”

“This is the best possible outcome you could have had with a sale of bonds,” said Dash, which Carman called a combination of “luck and our excellent ratings.” The luck part due to timing as recent actions by the Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell in stop hiking up the discount rate which impacts interest rates.

For instance, Belmont taxpayers will not be financing $100 million for the new school, but $94,428,000, which will result in a savings of $1.2 million from the town’s operating budget. Preserving the town’s AAA rating will “save” taxpayers between $50 to $60 a year from the initial cost projection for the school project.

Belmont’s credit score was confirmed by two rating agencies – Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s – which assessed the town had an exceptional degree of creditworthiness and could easily meet its financial commitments. The highest rating is a rare honor as only 9 of 350 cities and towns in Massachusetts hold a AAA rating. 

The process of retaining the bond rating began in February when the town’s finance team made up of Carman, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, Town Accountant Chitra Subramanian, Assistant Town Administrator Jon Marshall, Belmont Assessor Dan Dargon, School Department Director of Finance, Business and Operations Tony DiCologero and Glen Castro, the town’s budget analyst, spent the better part of the day on rating calls with S&P and Moody’s, answering questions “to make sure this financing was first rate.”

“They really harped on good financial management and good fiscal and retirement policies. They don’t want any surprises,” said Carman, who told one of the rating agencies last April that the town was coming in with the three large projects.

“It’s a team effort,” said Carman on gaining and then maintaining a triple-A rating. “You have to have all your key financial people together. This didn’t just pop up overnight. We’ve been planning for this for two years.” 

Paying for the debt on the bonds will see real estate taxes increase annually by $760 on the average single family home (in 2019 valued at $1,090,000) effective on Jan. 1, 2020.

New Federal Tax Law Has Belmont Property Owners At Treasurer’s Office, Check in Hand

Photo: A look at your real estate taxes could lead to prepaying next year’s tax bill.

David Levin arrived at the Belmont Treasurer’s Office Friday, Dec. 22 eager to pay the real estate taxes on his ranch-style home on Richmond Road. And not just the next quarterly assessment, but the entire calendar 2018 bill.

Levin’s motivation to pay upfront a substantial amount wasn’t due to a punctilious personality but rather the passage by Congress of what is the most sweeping overhaul of the US tax system in more than 30 years, which includes changes aimed at Levin and a large segment of his fellow Belmont homeowners.

While President Trump proclaimed the bill that passed two-days earlier on Dec. 20 “a middle-class Christmas gift” – pointing to lower rates and a near doubling of the standard deduction for individuals – Belmont property owners will see deductions on combined state and local taxes capped at $10,000 in 2018. For those taxpayers who itemize deductions, the hit to their wallets could be a big one.

“The Republican tax plan has compelled me to make a number of changes to my personal finances before Jan. 1 and one of those is prepaying my 2018 taxes so I can deduct them on my 2017 federal income tax,” said Levin, who will see about $3,000 in “savings” by paying forward next year’s bill.

“I won’t be able to take that deduction, maybe ever again,” he said.

Levin isn’t alone seeking to get in front of the new tax regs taking effect Jan. 1, 2018. With the annual tax bill on the average Belmont residential property – calculated at $1,003,750 – is approximately $12,200, it’s little wonder the Treasurer’s Office on the first floor of the Homer Building has become the hot spot in the “Town of Homes.”

“We’ve had a ton of interest in the past few days,” said a Treasurer staffer as a steady stream of residents came up to the department’s payment window with checkbooks in hand.

For the town’s tax collector, the sudden influx of residents seeking answers is not unexpected considering all the news about the tax bill.

“We’ve had a significant uptick in phone calls and payments and my fundamental attitude is if you want to prepay your taxes, we are more than willing to accept your check,” said Town Treasurer Floyd Carman on Friday.

For Carman and his small staff, the data they are providing and how the town will process the additional payments “isn’t rocket science.”

“If someone comes to that window tell those what the estimated tax bill will be, we can calculate the bill for the calendar year 2018 tax bill. We give the real estate taxpayer the information. What they do with it is up to them and their financial advisers,” said Carman. 

But residents shouldn’t expect any advice on how to manage their assets.

“We are not your tax attorney. Talk to them,” said Carman.

Carman said unlike other towns which have placed a two quarter prepay limit on property taxes, Belmont can arrange a payment plan.

“We will process the first two quarters and the remaining funds will be placed in a prepaid account. When we do the estimated bills in June for the remaining two quarters, then we’ll apply the money to them,” said Carman.

“Will it result in more work for us? Sure. But we’ll manage it,” he said.

While his office can come darn near close to the exact amount owed over one year, those who propose paying off two or three years in advance could be problematic as the property could see its assessed value shot up in the second year to a point where a resident will need to pay additional monies to meet their tax obligation. 

Carman said there are a number of issues that property owners will need to be aware of including if the firm holding the mortgage is contracted to pay outstanding taxes or what are the tax implications if the house is sold in the coming year.

“You need to deal with that. If someone calls me about your taxes, I can only tell them what I have in front of me,” he said.

Carman is also advising resident thinking of taking advantage of the existing exemptions to make sure the check approved at the Treasurer’s office or in the “drop box” in front of the Homer Building by Friday, Dec. 29 at 4 p.m. A mailed payment postmarked before but not processed by the deadline will not qualify for the exemption. 

“I’d advise anyone to make time to drop your payment off,” said Carman.

Belmont Real Estate Taxes Due by Friday, Aug. 1

It’s that time of the year: Belmont Real Estate taxes are due once again.

First quarter Real Estate and Personal Property Taxes will need to be in the town’s Treasurer’s Office by Friday, Aug. 1, at 1 p.m. so not to be deemed late.

There are several methods a ratepayer can use to submit their bill:

• In person at the Treasurer’s Office which is located on the first floor of the Homer Building in the Town Hall complex in Belmont Center. Just a reminder that the office closes at 1 p.m. on Fridays during the summer.

• Payments for Real Estate, Personal Property, and Excise Tax bills can be submitted after hours using the secured drop box located to the left of the Homer Building entranceway. Tax bills will be considered “on time” if they are placed in the drop box before 7 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 4.

• Go to the Town of Belmont’s website mcc.net to make an online payment or to sign up for paperless billing.

If you need assistance, please call (617) 993-2770.