Second Go-Around For Replacing DPW Fuel Tanks Starts With Tuesday Public Forum

Photo: The location of the DPW tanks.

If you first don’t succeed, hold a public forum. That’s the approach town officials are taking as they prepare to host a first of possibly two public forums on the future of a pair of municipal fuel tanks located beneath the Department of Public Works Yard off C Street.

The forum will take place via Zoom at 7 p.m., Tuesday, August 3. Zoom information can be found on the Town’s calendar at WWW.BELMONT-MA.GOV

“This is such a big hot item that we felt it needed a night onto itself rather than being crammed into a meeting agenda. It needs the respect of having its own night,” said Select Board Chair Adam Dash at the board’s Monday night meeting.

Despite seeing a nearly $500,000 supplemental allocation – which was championed in 2020-1 by the Capital Budget Committee and the Select Board after numerous public meetings – to pay for the removal of the existing 35-year-old tanks with an above-ground model costing a total of $1,033,000 narrowly defeated by the June annual Town Meeting, the town is currently conducting a detailed analysis to answer any questions about the project and refute unsubstantiated claims by three abutters who brought a successful citizens petition to defeat the allocation.

Glenn Clancy, Belmont’s director of Community Development who is leading the analysis, said the first meeting will be a chance for the town to share its findings and information on a couple of items such as ensuring tanks that have passed by several years their useful life and likely Department of Environmental Protection environmental concerns.

“I’m going at this very methodically. I’m starting from the beginning myself but I also recognize that a lot of the work has already been done by town staff and so I’m piecing together information and I’m taking good information from them as they help me inform me on my work,” said Clancy.

Both the Town Administrator’s Office and the Select Board said they will make a final recommendation only after hearing from the public and providing a finished report. The town will bring its proposal to the Special Town Meeting tentatively scheduled for early/mid-November.

Already, possible opposition to the town’s findings is coming from a familiar source. In a note to members over social media, Citizens for a Fiscally Responsible Belmont – a financially conservative group that headed the successful drive to defeat the $6.7 million Proposition 2 1/2 override this past April – will press the town to defend the size of the tanks while demanding it produces cost analysis on the tanks and alternatives.

The only option the CFRB is opposed to is a head-scratcher now as it was when it first promoted it before the June Town Meeting: an abolition of above-ground tanks. Despite the town and outside consultants demonstrated above ground storage was far less costly in the long run than those located underground, it was reported the group abandoned its fiscal conservative credo to solidify greater political support.

For Clancy, the only thing he’s seeking is “validation from the residents that what I’m doing and how I’m going about this.”

“The worst-case tomorrow night is that I come away with a message that I need to be digging deeper or … looking a little closer at certain things, which is fine. You know at the end of the day, what I want is a recommendation that I can make to the board that has broad consensus in the community. So it’s important that the community and the residents feel good about what the town proposes,” said Clancy.

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.