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Selectmens Meeting Minutes-12/6/2011
Selectmen’s Meeting
Nathan Media Center
Fuller Meadow School
December 6th, 2011
          7:30 P.M.

Call to Order: Chairperson Houten called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.  
  Present: Mr. Cresta, Ms. Jones, Ms. Lindberg and Mr. Prentakis.

Approval of Minutes: No minutes were available to approve this week.

Approval of Warrants:  Andrew Vanni presented two warrants this week. The Board approved a Payroll Warrant in the amount of $442,075, which also included Police payroll of $19,399, other payrolls were as follows, Fire $68,796, Electric Light $25,636, Public Works $20,493.  The vendor warrant was $323,092 made up of mostly payroll deductions $157,108, School $62,799, Treasurer had debt service $52,699, Fire Dept $38,779 total, $25,588 of it was the purchase of medical equipment.  

A motion was made by Mr. Prentakis and second by Ms. Jones.  All voted in favor.

Mr. Houten wanted to thank everyone that came to Middleton Center for the Christmas Festival.  He wanted to thank the Board of Trade, Paul Richardson and Fire Dept.  He said there was a wonderful showing at the Library for the movie The Grinch, then everyone followed the Fire Truck over to The Green with lots of free items and food for everyone, there were 4 exciting elves, two were on the Board (Nancy and Tim) followed by the kids from Howe Manning singing and the lighting of tree, it was a wonderful event.  It took a lot of effort to put everything up and take it down and it’s nice to have a small community where we can do that.  On Dec 20 there will be a lighting of the Menorah at the same sight and details will be posted on the web site.  Mr. Houten then took a 3 minute recess so they could start the next agenda item on time.

Meeting Reopened at 7:45

Fiscal Year 2012 Tax Classification Hearing:

Brad Swanson explained the following decisions that the Board needs to make.

  • Open Space Discount: the Board of Assessors has determined that Middleton does not have any Open Space land.  Mr. Prentakis made a motion to set rate at zero, seconded by Ms. Jones, and it passed unanimously.
  • Residential Exemption: The Selectmen may adopt an exemption of up to 20% to shift the Residential Class tax burden from lower assessed properties. This exemption is mainly seen in very large cities and places like Cape Cod that have communities with a lot of summer properties.  Mr. Prentakis made a motion to set exemption at zero, seconded by Ms. Jones and it passed unanimously.
  • Small Commercial Exemption: the Selectmen may adopt an exemption of up to 10% to shift the Commercial Class tax burden from eligible parcels to ineligible parcels.  The Board of Assessors has determined that there are no eligible parcels in Middleton.  Mr. Prentakis made a motion to set exemption at zero, seconded by Ms. Lindberg and it passed unanimously.
  • Classification: the Selectmen may shift the Town’s tax burden from the residential class to the commercial, industrial and personal property classes as long as the shift does not exceed the Minimum Residential Factor.  Middleton’s minimum residential factor is 89.13%, this means that no more than 10.87% of the residential class burden can be shifted to the commercial, industrial and personal property classes.  
Mr. Houten said for the people at home, that residential property makes up 82% of the taxes in the town.  Ms. Lindberg asked about shifting the tax burden to the industrial if that would still result in a tax increase?  Mr. Swanson referred her to the chart examples.  Mr. Prentakis said that the key impact is on tax dollars and the average commercial industrial property would be over $1100 more in order for the average single family home to save $130.  Ms. Jones said that the residential and commercial percentages have spread farther apart over the years.  She said when we were approaching a 70/30 split that would signal us to make a change but with the 82% and 12% percentage now we are getting further and further apart.  She felt that any change to the commercial as opposed to residential at this time would be an unfair burden to the commercial properties.  Mr. Swanson referred them to the packet with a list of percentages to compare the past years and one can see the growth causing the split between the property classes to increase.  

Mr. Prentakis made a motion to move to establish the classification factor at one which Mr. Cresta seconded, and the subject was opened for discussion.  

Mr. Bill Mugford spoke he said on behalf of several townspeople as well as senior citizens.  He noticed that the groceries have been increasing and senior citizens live on a fixed income and asked the Board to consider putting a shift on the tax rate as seniors are having a hard time making ends meet.

Mr. Houten mentioned several items the Town has in place to help out the seniors and lower income people and the Senior Tax Work off Credit is available.  Mr. Prentakis mentioned several exemption programs under state law the Town has adopted that are based on age and income and the Town is doing what it can to mitigate the tax burden on the older citizens that have limited income.  Also there is a Senior Disabled Tax Assistance Fund that will help those with tax relief.  There are a number of programs and efforts targeted at that demographic to help them along.

Mr. Mugford understood and was aware of those programs but he wanted the Board to consider the shift.

Ms. Patricia Olson spoke and said she understood the plight that Mr. Mugford mentioned but historically when smaller towns have shifted the tax rate they have lost business which ultimately resulted in tax payers having a higher burden rather than a lower one.  She prefers not to see any business driven out of town by of factoring the rate and would encourage the Board to keep the factor of one.

Mr. Cresta spoke about being on the Board of Selectmen in Wakefield and they voted a split in the tax rate. Wakefield has a larger commercial tax base, and he explained how it was difficult to adjust the tax levy shifts during hard economic times.  He felt at this time it would not be a good move for the Board to change but feels the beauty is that this issue is revisited every year.  Ms. Jones stated that even Salem and Beverly found themselves in hot water using a split tax rate and then trying to promote business development because of the anti-business climate the split rate created.  

The Chair asked if anyone else wished to comment further on the proposed motion not to classify the FY 2012 Tax Rate, thereby using a factor of one for all properties classes. The Chair called for a vote on the previous motion placed on the floor and it passed unanimously.

Mr. Swanson reviewed other charts including historical information statistics but nothing was finalized with Department of Revenue.  Mr. Swanson said that compared to other towns locally the average Middleton bill would increase by $98, Boxford would increase their taxes by $153 and Topsfield by $236 none of this is 100%.  The average tax bills are Middleton $6,046, Boxford $8,021, Topsfield $7,800.  Middleton had less growth this past year but has some new developments coming in the next year.  Condominium values have come back this year the average condo bill will go up $277 next year in Middleton.  Mr. Cresta asked about potential building in the future, Mr. Swanson stated there is a lot of potential building in the next couple of years.

Accept Retirement from Conservation Commission member Ann Delmarsh and discussion of actions for filling vacancy:

Ms. Lindberg commented on what a wonderful job Ann Delmarsh has done in her seven years on the board.  Mr. Houten said there is one alternate on the board that could be appointed to a full member position, and then the Town could advertise a vacancy for this position, but that he wants to speak to the Conservation Commission Chairman before taking any action.  Mr. Prentakis stated that Ann was also on the Community Preservation Committee by virtue of her membership on the Conservation Commission through an appointment by the Town Moderator.  The Town Moderator should be notified and sent a copy of final minutes so that he will be prompted to fill the vacancy on the Community Preservation Committee.

Other Business:

The Selectmen discussed changing the next meeting date but they may be unable to do that as the license renewals need to be signed before the end of the year and if the meeting is postponed it might be too late to get them to the businesses on time.  Mr. Houten will check into this and then decide on the next meeting date for business.  Mr. Cresta wanted to wish everyone Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.  

The Selectmen will schedule a brief meeting to sign recap documents from the Department of Revenue once the tax rate is approved.

Adjournment: Mr. Houten asked for motion to adjourn, a motion was made by Ms. Lindberg and seconded by Mr. Cresta.  All voted in favor and the meeting was adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,
Rhonda Draper
Rhonda Draper, Recording Secretary