READING – It’s probably too early to think about the fall. But what if we tell you leaves might not be the only thing falling in October. Your taxes could be coming down as well.
The Reading Select Board heard a proposal Tuesday from Town Assessor Victor Santaniello to follow the lead of surrounding communities and shift more of the tax burden to businesses. It was part proposal, part informal discussion, all leading to the formal tax classification vote in October.
But don’t get too excited. The tax break he discussed amounts to roughly $ 21 for the average Reading home, enough to buy four gallons of gas these days. Still, it’s an effort by Santaniello and Town Manager Fidel Maltez to shift more of the tax burden to businesses and the first of what could be additional shifts in future years.
“A tax shift should be slow by design,” said Santaniello to the board. “If you do something, leave it alone for a while.”
Currently, the shift is 1.02, meaning businesses are paying slightly more of the tax burden compared to residents. Reading would be a single tax rate community if not for the Senior Tax Discount. Maltez and Santaniello propose increasing the shift to 1.05 for FY23, resulting in that savings of $ 21 for residents. For businesses, going from the current 1.02 shift to 1.05 means an average increase of $ 310.
“When you think about shifting in such small increments, it saves the residential tax payers a little, but the impact passed along can be great,” said Santaniello.
Reading can push the tax shift to businesses up to a max of 1.50, something surrounding communities have done. Stoneham, Wakefield, Wilmington and Woburn have all pushed the business tax to the maximum allowed, in their cases a 1.75 shift.
If Reading went to its maximum shift of 1.50, the average resident would pay $ 345 less in taxes while the average business would pay $ 4,904 more. Don’t expect that much of a change, at least not in the short term.
Because it was just an informal discussion, the business community wasn’t there to express its opinion on the idea. That’s sure to change in October. Chair Mark Dockser expressed the wish of asking the bigger businesses in town to pay a larger share of taxes, knowing it would be impossible to do so.
“If only I had a sharpie and could circle just these,” said Santaniello, referring to the major national companies that line Walker’s Brook Drive.
With concerns about the timeline of the Symonds Way committee and a conflict with the town’s search for a new Community / Senior Center, the Select Board exercised its authority and… changed SWAC to SWEC.
Instead of being an advisory committee, the seven-member group will now be an exploratory committee. Thus, the A becomes an E and SWEC is born. In addition to the name change, the board debated delaying the start of SWEC to December so that it wouldn’t interfere with the work of the Reading Center for Active Living Committee (ReCalc).
Dockser was firm in his belief that SWEC shouldn’t start until December, even at one point suggesting it wait until March when ReCalc’s work was complete.
“There’s a huge risk in starting this committee in September,” said Dockser, also a member of ReCalc. “There’s two much risk in getting in the way [of ReCalc].
Dockser wants to avoid having two committees, SWEC and ReCalc, fighting over one piece of land.
“Let [ReCalc] do its job, ”said Dockser.
On the opposite side was Chris Haley, who has been consistent in his opposition to any delay in anything town related.
“What is the point in losing six months? I think it should be changed back to September, ”said Haley. “I don’t want to kick this can down the road. I’d rather see this start sooner rather than later. ”
Board members also debated whether a Finance Committee member should be on the committee. Dockser said no. Haley said yes.
The board wasn’t the only group weighing in on the subject. Resident Angela Binda said during public comment she did not understand the need for the committee, referenced past Town Meeting discussions, and was concerned about transparency.
“It’s really disturbing because the more I hear other people talk about this, it seems like there are conversations going on that Town Meeting was not aware of,” said Binda. “I don’t want to have an eye on my government in a way that I feel that I have to with this. So, I’m asking you to put this committee on the backburner for now until there is more information on what was said at Town Meeting. ”
As initially proposed, the committee will be composed of one Select Board member, one Recreation Committee member, one Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) member, one Conservation Committee member, one Permanent Building Committee member, one school committee member, and one ReCalc or Council on Aging Member or Senior Advocate.
At Carlo Bacci’s suggestion, a ReCalc member will not be on the committee. But other changes will be reviewed in the next two weeks and the board will vote on them at its June 28 meeting.
The primary goal of SWEC will be to define the best use for the property, which is located a few steps from Burbank Arena.
After discussing the town’s updated Open Space & Recreation Plan at their last meeting, the board voted 5-0 to endorse and send a letter of support to the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“The Select Board believes the draft plan has identified appropriate and realistic goals that will address the current and future needs for open space and recreation facilities in Reading,” said Dockser in the letter.
The board also authorized the Town Manager to execute legal documents that allow the transfer of Camp Rice Moody from the Reading Council for Girls, Inc. to the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. In legal documents included in the Select Board packet, it explains the transfer.
“It has become impossible and / or impracticable for the Plaintiff (Camp Rice Moody Leadership) to continue to operate for the following reasons: The active, adult leadership of the [Camp] has diminished and the remaining officers are unable to administer the [Camp] and its property and to oversee its purpose. The objectives of the [Camp] can best be performed by the [Girls Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts]which has stated purposes consistent with those of the [Camp]. ”
The board voted to approve budgets for the Historical Commission ($ 1,500), Trails Committee ($ 3,000), and the Town Forest Committee ($ 5,000). The $ 9,500 total will be taken from the Select Board’s budget of $ 15,000.
The board voted 5-0 on a sunset date of June 30 for the Human Relations Advisory Committee (HRAC). During public comment Bill Brown told the board that the library shouldn’t be involved in hosting last Sunday’s Pride Parade. His reasoning was the same as why the town is not allowing a Pride flag on the flag pole outside Town Hall. He was also concerned about Memorial Park being used for the town’s Juneteenth event.