Residential tax exemption, housing among Select Board goals

By Celeste Katz Marston
July 13, 2023

Select Board is focusing on sorting out goals for Fiscal Year 2024 — and how to handle residential tax exemptions and housing were a serious part of the discussion. 

Because of increasing financial pressures, Chair Henry Dane said the town is “very likely to be facing an override in the future.”

The residential exemption is a state-wide policy that can be adopted by any city or town, and can apply to all owner-occupied homeowners who have lived for the preceding fiscal year in Concord. The other, so-called Clause 41C ½, is a state program for seniors that needs an election at the polls to go into effect. 

“Having passed the residential exemption makes it much more feasible to run an override if we need it, because it doesn’t have the same drastic effect on people’s survivability, because at least the people on the lower end of the economic spectrum are much less affected by the override expenses if they are essentially protected against significant increases in taxation,” he said.” I think it makes an override possible or more palatable if we need it if we have the residential exemption.”

Board Member Terri Ackerman said she agreed — but since the town usually sets the tax rate in November or possibly December, she preferred not to wait too late to hear about department goals, plans for American Rescue Plan funds, and other pressing issues. She proposed a discussion about those matters in early September. “Then when we get to the residential exemption in November or December, we discuss it again, because it’s going to be ongoing.”

Select Board Member Mark Howell warned that because of how the exemption is applied, “there’s an inflection point somewhere along that line where someone is actually paying more than they would have paid if we had done nothing — so we know who we’re going to hear from.” He suggested trying some modeling of how the exemptions would impact taxpayers, perhaps in examples drawn from how applying those exemptions would have affected the current year’s taxes. 

Rather than take up all the financial issues at once, Board Clerk Mary Hartman proposed pulling out the residential exemption into its own discussion, and one to be held specifically ahead of the other matters.

Board Chair Henry Dane added, “I think the assessors at this point are a reluctant partner in this project, and I want to do a little work over the next week or so in terms of maybe getting a more practical approach to it.” That could include an examination of the practices of other towns with exemption programs “and what their forms are and how they’ve gone about it — which is something the assessors have not done… Time is short if we want to have it implemented for this fiscal year. Time is very short.”

The Board will further discuss the residential tax exemption when it meets in August, with other budgetary matters to follow.