April 29, 2021 by Hilary Jenison (courtesy photos)
Candidate Question: Round 2, Board of Assessors
This week, we continue our Candidate Question series leading up to the May 22 Town Election. The Anchor is featuring a series of questions for each of the competitive election races, including Light Board, Board of Assessors, Board of Health, Town Clerk, and Select Board.
We hope voters will carefully read the responses to understand each candidate better and help inform their decision-making at the polls. You can find more information about the local election, including candidate announcements and profiles, on our Local Elections page.
This week, we connected with Al Chambers and Joshua Ross, who are both running for a seat on Board of Assessors.
Anchor Question: "What improvements in the existing system would you recommend, if any, and what parts of the current system do you feel are working best?”
Response from Carleton "Al" Chambers, Candidate for Board of Assessors:
What is running right is the efficiency of its small staff of three State Certified Assessors resulting in a 95% accuracy rating based on comparable sales. They are backed by two part-time employees and the use of our software system on complex properties (Derby Street Shops, Linden Ponds ,etc.). The Town has 7,000 properties with a total value of 7 Billion dollars. It is a big responsibility to the Citizens and is well directed.
The three elected assessors are also State Certified and represent the taxpayers/citizens interests in reviewing the accuracy and fairness of the valuations. The success of both sides of the process can be determined by the decline in abatement requests over the past years.
In terms of operational improvements I would like to have the department go paperless, but the cost of computerization is not something the Town can consider presently.
Response from Joshua Ross, Candidate for Board of Assessors:
The scope of what an accessor can and can’t do is restricted by the laws of the Commonwealth. The state limits the role to four main responsibilities - determining the value of all taxable land, methods of assessing, frequency of assessing, and discovering value. Some of the areas I would want to potentially study to see if any improvements could be made to benefit the town would be:
- Frequency of assessments - given the drastic increase in property values over the past few years, we want to make sure we are capturing the most up-to-date assessments of these properties.
- Reviewing the assessment software - while it’s a difficult task to manually assess the more than 7,000 properties in Hingham, we want to make sure we are using the best methods possible.
- Revisit how commercial businesses are being assessed - even though commercial real estate only makes up a small percentage of revenue, we need to make sure we are in-line with our peer towns with respect to commercial rates.
I believe Hingham does an excellent job in addressing the needs of their most vulnerable citizens. This stands true for the Board of Assessors. The abatement process and new circuit breaker program give our community members, who need the extra help, the tools necessary to make it possible to continue to be part of our community. We need to continue to build on these programs, for both residential and commercial properties, as relief for those who need it as we look to generate more revenue for the town.