Board of Assessors Members
- William J. Barkin, Chairman
- Thomas Elder
- David Westall
Synopsis of Assessment Practices
The laws governing assessments in Massachusetts specifically state that fair cash value be the standard by which property is taxed (MGL Chap 59 §2A). A comprehensive appraisal system as well as constant monitoring of real estate market fluctuations are needed in order for the Board of Assessors to meet the statutory requirement set forth in Mass. Gen. Laws Chap. 59.
Real estate market value in Williamstown is created by the buyers and sellers who negotiate price. Statistical analysis of sales is performed to ascertain the weight or influence; each existing property characteristic may contribute to market value. Those characteristics that continue to “drive” market value in Williamstown are: location, fireplaces, bathrooms, living area, condition and overall quality of construction (grade). By measuring these “components of value” against the sales sample, a dollar value can be assigned to nearly replicate the actual sales. From here a “pricing schedule” is developed and tested against the sales. When the schedule meets statistical standards within a tolerable range of the initial purchase price, that is, the new assessments generated fall within a range of about ±10%, then the schedule is applied across the board to all residential properties.
The new assessments calculated for unsold properties are then based on each property’s existing characteristics. Fine tuning of the newly generated assessments is done by performing a field review of a representative sampling of the Town and making on site adjustments, specifically for location, grade or condition where needed.
The Assessments of commercial properties are based upon typical or economic/market income streams for each particular kind or use of property, i.e. retail, office, restaurant etc.
The Board of Assessors maintains a property inventory of approximately 3,000 real estate properties and 200± personal property accounts. We strive for 100% accuracy in our assessments. The abatement process allows the Board to view properties that may have errors on the property record card and thus produce inaccurate assessments.
Measuring Assessment Fairness
Assessments are said to be “wildly skewed” when two physically and economically equivalent properties have very different assessments. Equivalency, and therefore fairness, is properly determined not by the sales prices of individual transactions but by the physical and economic characteristics of the properties. Unfortunately, the analysis of the physical or economic variables is complex and requires sophisticated computer programs and skilled interpreters, whereas the sales prices as a part of the database are easily manipulated, reported, and converted into pseudo-measurements.
In the assessment profession, the Coefficient of Dispersion (COD) is the statistical measurement whereby uniformity of assessed properties in a jurisdiction are judged. The COD is the average difference between the sales prices and assessments. A COD of 10 means that about one half of all properties have an assessment within 10 percentage points of the sale and is the profession’s definition of an excellent tax roll in a municipality. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue through the Bureau of Local Services will not certify a city or town’s assessment roll unless a COD of 10 is achieved.
The use of the COD to measure consistency and fairness reveals a very important and subtle problem that every assessor must face. It is impossible to know with certainty the market value or the most probable sale price of any single property. Our ability to measure is limited to the group; the COD is a statistical measurement applicable to the population - it says nothing about any individual sale.
Assessors Online Property Inventory
GIS Query Manager Online
Use the GIS Query Manager to view and print parcel maps, Property record cards, abutter lists, aerial views, and other parcel data. Just enter owner, address, or Parcel ID to find all the information. If you need assistance getting started, please call Bill at 413-458-9343
Real Estate Tax Assessments
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has approved a Town tax rate of $15.79 and a Fire District tax rate of $0.59 per $1,000 of valuation based on full and fair cash value as of January 1, 2015. Tax bills are due Monday, November 2.