By Beth David, Editor
At its meeting on 12/9/21, the Fairhaven Select Board voted to set the tax rate, keeping the same shift as last year. The shift is the difference between the residential and commercial rates. The FY22 tax rates are $10.22 per $1,000 for residential; $20.39 for commercial properties. Last year’s rates were 11.29 and 22.53.
The lower tax rate, however, does not mean that property owners will see a reduction in their tax bill. Property values have increase. Most properties should see only a modest increase.
The average single family home value for FY2021 was $319,583 x $11.29/1000 = $3,608.09. The average single family home for FY2022 is $366,206 x $10.22/1000 = $3,742.63.
The town started splitting the tax rate to charge more for commercial properties in 1990. If the town adopted a single rate, it would be $11.65 per $1,000 (of value) making the average tax bill for residences $4,266.30.
The board also held a meeting on 12/20/21 when it discussed the Request for Proposals for the Rogers School property. The board held off on voting on the RFP, citing changes that Town Counsel Thomas Crotty had suggested that same day.
Members of the Rogers School Re-use Committee pressed the board to make a decision that night.
Chairperson Susan Loo told the board they have been working on it for a long time and the committee feels it has come up with the right document.
She said she had not seen Mr. Crotty’s changes, but she had spoken with him.
She said he told her it was “just a matter of a few words here and there and then it was ready to go.”
Town Planner and Economic Development Director Paul Foley said there were a few things to add, including language about it being an historic site.
Mr. Foley said Mass. Development personnel had toured the building, and although the town did not get the grant, Mass. Development said the building was in better shape than they anticipated.
Mr Foley and board members discussed some details of the RFP, including language about an easement, and the need for zoning changes if the project includes residences.
Select Board Chairperson Bob Espindola clarified that the RFP in question was for selling the building, not leasing it.
Mr. Foley said the town can put out a second RFP for leasing the building.
Mr. Espindola said the committee should not put two RFPs out at the same time. He said they should get through one first, then decide on one for leasing the building.
He said he was not comfortable voting that night. He wanted a clean copy with the changes clearly marked so they know what they are voting on.
SB member Stasia Powers agreed, saying she would like time to review it. Although she did not want to put it off any longer than necessary, she said she wanted to do her “due diligence.”
The committee members still pressed for a decision that night.
Mr. Espindola reiterated his stance, saying he reviewed what was in the packet, but “now we have something new,” that they did not have a chance to review.
“I’m not trying to rush you,” said Ms. Loo, but, she added, if Town Counsel said “it’s good to go, I don’t see why.”
“We are the ones responsible for making the decision,” said Mr. Espindola, noting that town counsel only advises the board. “I can tell you that I have not agreed with every single thing he’s recommended.”
It is a “pretty high batting average,” he said, but “I can’t say I agree with all.”
“It’s a board of three,” noted Mr. Espindola and then called on his fellow board members to comment.
Keith Silvia was joining remotely and did have some connection issues.
Ms. Powers said she wanted a “clean document.”
“I would like to see exactly what we’re going to submit,” said Ms. Powers, even if it does not have the changes.
Mr. Espindola said the “ideal” would be to have both: a clean document, and a document that showed the changes.
He said they could have a special meeting if the January 10 meeting was too far away for the committee.
Mr. Silvia said he had no problem with a special meeting.
“And it would be good to have a clean copy,” he said.
The board voted unanimously to get new documents with the changes recommended by Town Counsel and the changes noted.
The board also discussed appointing a Select Board representative to the Belonging Committee. Mr. Espindola said he spoke with the BC chairperson Leon Correy, member Jessica Fidalgo, and former member John Hinds, whose cryptic resignation letter about problems with the committee being inclusive disturbed SB members.
Mr. Espindola said he watched the two meetings the committee had, and he reached out to the people involved, as promised at the last SB meeting.
After speaking with all three BC members, he said it appeared to him they just got off “on the wrong foot.”
He said not all committee members have an understanding of what the committee is.
Mr. Espindola said the committee could do more education on the fundamentals of what the group is supposed to do. He said at the second meeting they acknowledge that.
“Thank you for doing that, and clarifying where the challenges were,” said Ms. Powers, adding that whenever a new committee is formed, it brings a new group of people together who do not know each other.
Mr. Espindola asked if he had done what Mr. Silvia had hoped for.
“Yes, you covered it,” said Mr. Silvia, adding “God bless you,” with a chuckle.
Mr. Espindola said he also noticed that the school department, police department and fire department are all supposed to have representatives on the committee. The board voted unanimously to make Mr. Espindola the SB representative on the BC.
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