Tisbury selectmen voted to set a tax rate of $8.46 for the coming year, slightly above last year’s rate of $8.01.
And after discussion at the public tax classification hearing Tuesday, a majority of the board agreed that the town should take steps to gradually shift away from the practice of allowing a residential tax exemption for year-round homeowners.
For this year the residential tax exemption will be lowered from 20 to 18 per cent.
The average value of a home in Tisbury is $765,695, which at a 20 per cent rate results in a residential exemption of $153,139, said assistant assessor Ann Marie Cywinski. At 18 per cent, the exemption is $137,825. Last year, the average home value was $757,475. Year-round residents subtract the exemption amount from their home’s total value before calculating property taxes. In Massachusetts 14 towns use the exemption, Mrs. Cywinski said, most of which are resort communities like the Vineyard.
“There is no change in revenue,” town treasurer Tim McLean said. “We raise the same amount of dollars; it’s just where those dollars are coming from.”
But selectman Jonathan Snyder said he was bothered by the practice of a tax exemption for one class of residents. “I’ve always been troubled by the fact that the residential exemption shifts the tax burden onto the homeowners who are not voters, who have no say in the matter and who are essentially taxed without a voice in the matter,” he said. “I would like to see over the long term that exemption reduced and eliminated . . . over 20 years.” Mr. Snyder proposed a new rate of 18 per cent, with plans to reduce the rate by two per cent over the next 10 years. Board chairman Jeffrey Kristal agreed with the concept but noted that selectmen cannot set the tax rate for future years.
Selectman Tristan Israel disagreed, saying the change would put a burden on year-round residents.
“Again, we are putting this on the backs of people who are struggling to live here,” he said. “We got rid of the commercial shift last year, now you’re trying to add another burden to these people; I just think it’s wrong.” Prior to 2011, commercial taxpayers in Tisbury had underwritten the residential exemption by paying an increased tax rate. Last year the board voted to shift that burden away from commercial properties, resulting in a slight increase in tax rates for resident and nonresident property owners.
Maintaining the commercial shift was unanimously approved during Tuesday’s meeting. The reduction in the residential exemption was approved 2-1, with Mr. Kristal and Mr. Snyder in favor and Mr. Israel against.
In other business, the board approved an underground propane storage facility on Evelyn Way for Rymes Propane, and voted to send a letter of support on behalf of medical marijuana dispensary applicants Ryan Dillon and Matt Peters, following the same procedure it took with the Kingsbury Group’s application two weeks ago.