HANSON – Tax levys and EV charger malfunctions have sparked discussion among Select Board members over the course of their last two meetings.
The Select Board on Tuesday, Nov. 29 held its annual public hearing to allocate a uniform tax levy for each class of property for fiscal 2023, as well as rejecting exemptions for residential and small commercial entities. The assessors were back as the board reconvened the hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
The EV stations will now be carried over to another meeting after the Tuesday, Dec.6 discussion of the town’s malfunctioning charging station, as Town Administrator Lisa Green researches funding avenues for the $975 it is estimated to cost the town to get chargers up and running again.
Assistant Assessor Denise Alexander said in the Nov. 29 hearing that the classification hearing could not be closed that night because property values have not yet been finalized, but they can request the Select Board reconvene the hearing when final numbers are available. The board voted to reconvene the hearing at 5:45 p.m. Dec. 6.
Residential exemptions, generally for Class 1 properties that own and occupy properties, such as in towns with a higher rate of rental properties like Boston. Small commercial exemptions are applied to the owner of a commercial propery, not the business owners if they rent the property where they do business. Only 20 Hanson businesses would benefit from that split.
“Hanson has such a small amount of personal property, that adopting a split rate would shift the larger [tax] burden onto the commercial/industrial properties, Alexander said. “Hanson’s Select Board has always voted to maintain a single tax rate for that reason.”
Tax rate splits are usually adopted when towns see 80 percent of properties classified as residential and 20 percent as commercial/industrial.
“Because we want to try to attract businesses and retain the businesses we have, we haven’t wanted to do a shift and unduly burden the few businesses who have decided to be here,” Select Board Chair Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
She stressed that the figures were estimates, as the Board of Assessors is waiting for values to be finalized and sent to the Department of Revenue for certification.
Alexander said average single-family home and residential condo and commercial/industrial value have been creeping up over the last few years while the tax rate has gone down.
The Board of Assessors agreed, and again recommended the uniform tax rate.
“Hanson is primarily residential, at 93 percent,” Alexander said. “Between the commercial/industrial and personal property, it’s about 7 percent.”
The average residential dwelling — valued at $455,543 for FY ’23 with a tax bill of $6,463.2 compares to $413,247 in FY 22 — and commercial/industrial values were used.
FitzGerald-Kemmett asked the assessors to provide some background on who assessors speak with when discussing setting the tax rate.
“Sales really push our values to be adjusted each year,” Alexander said explaining a commercial appraiser does the commercial/industrial property appraisal and she does residential. “It’s a complex system and a computerized algorythm.”
The excess levy capacity on Dec. 6 it was put at $20,265.95.
The two EV charging stations, placed behind Town Hall at the urging of former Select Board member Matt Dyer, were connected to an APP from which drivers in need of a charge for their vehicles could ping and locate them. The issue was tabled until more information on EV charging station costs are determined,
However, according to Town Planner Antonio M. DeFrias on Dec. 6, a driver earlier this year had contacted the town to report the stations were not working.
The station was funded by a grant filed by the previous Town Planner Deborah Pettey.
DeFrias, who said he is not familiar with charging stations, consulted Maintenance/Facilities Director Charles Baker to help determine the problem.
The core malfunction turned out to be, in the name of the song, “Time Passages.”
Baker reached out to the company and discovered the chargers are effectively obsolete — 3G components trying to communicate in a 5G technology.
“And 3G is long gone,” DeFrias said. “At that time, up until the citizen let us know, they were basically on an APP saying it was a legit charging station.”
The stations have been taken off the APP while an upgrade and cost is figured out. The company sent an email in August quoting the necessary parts and labor at $975.
DeFrias was seeking an appropriation to do the work.
“Obviously, with everything going green and that’s where we’re headed, and it is at the Town Hall, it makes sense for it to be up and running for not only residents, but in the future if the town purchases electric vehicles, there’s a charging station right here on-site,” he said.
“The obvious question is, Do we have $975 somewhere?” FitzGerald-Kemmett said, asking if it could be under the Energy Committee’s purview. Green said it could be funded from one of the maintenance of public property accounts.
“I think I asked the question two or three years ago, when we were debating if this was going to be installed, does the town make any money from the charging station?” Select Board member Jim Hickey said.
DeFrias said he would have to look back on files to determine that.
Select Board member Ann Rein asked who pays for the electricity. According to EV experts, typically the owner of the charging station pays their utility for the electricity used at a charging station, but can in turn charge a fee for the electricity to the vehicle owner. [quora.com]
“I’d rather table this until we have answers,” Hickey said.
“We don’t even know how long it hasn’t been functioning, so I don’t think buying another week or two until we can get a few answers about the economics of it … will kill us,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
Right now, the board wants to know if the town has made any money off the stations, how much it is costing the town to charge each vehicle, when the town is getting paid and if any grant funding is available to upgrade the stations. Green has been asked to look into it.
“No matter what, if we keep it, it needs to be repaired,” Rein said. “It hasn’t been able to communicate with the Mother Ship now for two years.”
“I do think there’s an increased demand for people to charge their cars, but only if it works,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
Select Board member Ed Heal said the exact point at which the stations stopped working was needed before the town could determine what it was or would cost to continue operating it.