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Thread: Assessments

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    44

    Default Assessments

    There were two letters to the editor in the Town Crier this week, both of which described what the authors felt was unfairness in the assessments of our homes. As I read them, the authors are essentially alleging that (1) south Wayland homes (at least in certain neighborhoods) are being evaluated unfairly in comparison to north Wayland homes, and (2) small lots are being classified in such a way that they are being assessed at a higher rate than large lots. I must disclose that I am particularly interested because I live on one of the streets in South Wayland which is alleged to be classified unfairly in comparison to certain other streets in north Wayland. I am wondering if anyone who is familiar with our assessment process and is knowledgable about the assessments that we just received can comment on the allegations made in the letters. I want to be clear that I am not asking for, nor am I interested in, comments about or criticisms of the individuals who wrote the letters. What I am interested in finding out about is whether we have, or might have, the types of assessment problems that were raised in those letters.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
    Posts
    382

    Exclamation Alleged Assessment Problems

    Lawrie,

    The assessment issues which are being spotlighted are many and varied.
    I am somewhat familiar with this issues since I have spent a great deal of time at Monday night Assessor meetings and have filmed a number of them for replay on WayCAM.

    There is a group of dedicated Waylanders who have researched these issues in much greater detail than me but since I frequent Waylandenews and they don't I will take the task to present what is now being alleged as faults in the Wayland assessment process. You could also contact the authors of the articles that you referenced to get their more 'first hand' knowledge of the situation. Again, I will state for legal reasons, that these are alleged faults and much of the material that I will present here was researched by other people and is not my direct work product. However, I have received permission to use materials provided to me in this explanation.

    Note: In this post, I am taking on the role of *reporter* where I am collecting an array of inputs and materials from others and as a reporter I am taking the option to not mention the names of the sources or targets directly. As a reporter I claim the established right to maintain this level on anonymity. I have taken on this role for two reasons: (1) Lawrie Glick has asked a broad and open ended question concerning the allegations that have been made about the assessment system and (2) to more throughly answer that question, I had to draw on a number of sources and inputs to describe what is and what has turned out to be a multifaceted issue. In the cases where I have edited input text, it was done to spare the names of specific individuals. The only names that were left in tact were those of public officials or a town consultant hired to diagnose the suspected problem(s). All private parties and employees have been protected in this regard. In all cases, I have noted that the problematic accusations are allegations.

    That being said, the identity of sources are already disclosed in current articles that have been published and/or are easily discovered. Also, if any person needs additional information to help clarify a point, I will do my best to accommodate that. Feel free to contact me at AlanJReiss@Verizon.net.


    I also wish to point out that I know and have worked with many of the current and past assessors and they are hard-working people who give a great deal to the town in terms of their time and personal sacrifice. Their challenges are huge and, if there are issues with the assessments, then some of those issues are based on historical factors and inefficiencies which have occurred the past and have propagated to the present. Its also possible that the BoA does not have all of the tools or funding they need to correct any issues in a timely manner. My understanding is that a 'Full list and Measure' article will be offered at the April TM. The BoA and the BoS does not seem to want this remedy (at this point) but this may be the correct course of action.

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    1. Land valuations are alleged to be incorrect due to allocation of site index multiplier factors.

    Each street is associated with a site index which has a specific multiplier factor. If the multiplier factor is 1.15 then it is valued 15% greater than if it had a site index that had a multiplier of 1.0. What is being alleged is that smaller properties on neighborhood streets in southern Wayland have equivalent or higher site index multiplier factors than larger properties with better and more expansive views and are more desirable which are in northern Wayland. This means that many site indexes of neighborhoods in southern Wayland are equivalent to site indexes in northern Wayland where the streetscape is clearly not equivalent. The result of this is to overvalue the smaller neighborhood properties and undervalue the larger expansive properties.

    2. The use of Backland in valuation calculations is alleged to be unfair

    Depending upon site index and in general, the first (say 1/2 acre) is fully valued and the zoning above the minimum required to hold that house + septic is called backland is valued at much lower dollars / acre. Although this is a common practice in assessment, the disparity between the frontland and the backland in dollars per acre is over-reaching in Wayland. This is especially true when the backland can be subdivided at some later point to create multiple lots and then sold at much higher valuations then the tax burden assessment over the years it was owed.

    There seems to be a large disconnect between what is done in Weston vs. what is done in Wayland. The following chart is offered:

    Weston values the land only of a parcel with a home on it as follows:
    28 acres $11M
    14 acres $5.7M
    7 acres $2.5M
    5.5 acres $2M
    3.5 acrse $1.2M

    Compare that to Wayland -
    30 acres $458K (with frontage and approved development plans)
    25 acres $1M (2200ft frontage)
    10 acres $556K (>1000ft frontage)
    8.8 acres $526K (w/ frontage)
    5.7 acres $300K (w/ frontage)
    3.8 acres $100K (>1000ft frontage)

    This creates an unfair balance of tax levy against the smaller properties with less land and these properties tend to be in southern Wayland.

    3. Actual land sales are alleged to have not been taken into consideration in the assessment of certain large parcels.

    Sales drive true assessment values and if sales are not taken into consideration or properties are excluded for incorrect reasons (because they are wrongly judged not-arms length, when in fact they are) then the assessments will not be accurate. Here is a chart of 4 large land sales that were not used but should have been used according to the author of this research:

    6/10/08 223/229 Rice Road 30.5 acres $4M
    3/20/07 Rose Hill 3.4 acres $1,075,000.00
    12/19/06 22 Holiday 15 acres $3,150,000.00
    8/14/06 Hidden Springs 14 acres $3,150,000.00

    See a copy of the FY09 Land valuation manual for Wayland for your own research - attached to this posting. FY09 Land.pdf

    4. Alleged changes in site index or abutting conservation creates significant changes in assessments which may be unfair to the smaller properties

    One data point given was

    Lincoln Road Property
    25 Acres abutting conservation
    2,200 Feet Frontage on Lincoln

    FY09 $1,032,100
    FY08 $4,579,700
    FY07 $2,034,100
    FY06 $2,203,900
    FY05 $2,146,500
    FY04 $2,146,500
    FY03 $2,146,500
    FY02 $1,461,100

    Notice the assessment drops from $4.6M in FY08 to $1.03M in FY09. Even with a RE market dropping by perhaps 20% worst case in Wayland, this property deflated about 75%... why? There are other examples.

    5. On 12/8/08 Assessors / BoS meeting we had a presentation by a Wayland assessor contractor Harald Sheid.

    Mr. Sheid was contracted for a sum of $40K to review and do some partial inspections and to come to conclusions as to whether Wayland had a sound assessment process. The following were notes taken from this meeting. I was busy filming the meeting and will be producing a WayCAM show on this presentation

    Quoted statements made by Harald Sheid at the 12/8/08 BOS Meeting:
    " In Wayland, Fiscal Year to Fiscal Year, the distribution of value changes range from -30% to +30%."
    " Values year to year increase or decrease over a broad range."
    " With a good and stable model, most property valuations move in the same direction."
    " In Wayland, there is no normal distribution."
    " This phenomena has led to a great many abatements."
    " We've got some problems here."
    " The number of abatements, which is the amount of revenue abated and number of $ returned to taxpayers, in Wayland is SIGNIFICANT."
    " In other towns like Wayland it is $20-$30K. In Wayland it is many times that." " The abatement statistics are indicative that there are some issues out there."
    " Improper valuations drive abatements."
    " Inequities - folks comparing their assessments with those of their neighbors" is a reason for many of the abatements.
    " Value volatility is a phenomena that can be observed in yo-yo-ing assessments and is a primary reason for taxpayer discontent."
    " There are significant valuation model issues."
    " Modelling errors are driven by the competency of the appraiser, the limitations of the system or usage of the assessment system."
    " Data errors are mistakes on property cards. Data quality has a direct impact on valuations." Please note - data quality issues affect everyone's valuations - not just the many with errors.
    " Wayland has problems maintaining data."
    " Wayland allows 1-2 sales to influence the model which mankes radical and wrong changes to values."

    Following the formal presentation, only FinComm, BOA and BOS were allowed to pose questions.

    John Bladon from FinComm asked Harald is the "current department is adequate" to address and fix the problems.
    Harald's response was an unequivocal "No."

    Bill Whitney, BOS, asked Harald if he "thought it was a problem that some properties go up" and that over the past 2 years some went up-up, some went down-down, some went up-down, and some went down-up".
    Harald's response was an unequivocal "Yes." and he added that there appears to have been "no attempt to see if" these variations are "rational".

    Bob Lenz, FinComm, asked about the lack of adequate 2007 sales inspections.

    In response to other questions, Harald Scheid repeatedly commented and issued disclaimers that he was not asked to look at or into the FY09 assessment problems.


    6. Digital recording done by Alan Reiss on 12/18/08 of the Harald Sheid presentation. Town Hall, Large Hearing Room, Wayland. BoS + BoA present includes public commentary approximately 90 minutes

    One or more of the following links should work for you.
    Note www.waylandmass.us is my private website.

    BoA + BoS 12/18/08
    Harald Sheid presentation of the State of Wayland Assessments
    90 Minutes

    QuickTime
    http://www.waylandmass.us/BoA/BoA121808.mp4
    Windows Media Player
    http://www.waylandmass.us/BoA/BoA121808.wmv
    Adobe Flash
    http://www.waylandmass.us/BoA/BoA121808.swf

    Enjoy !
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by AlanJReiss; 01-12-2009 at 12:44 PM. Reason: Added links to Harald Sheid presentation movie 12/18/08

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    44

    Default

    Thank you very much Alan. I am extremely appreciative of the time and thought that you put into answering my questions. Although I can't personally definitively reach any substantive conclusion at this point, since there is clearly so much to study in order to do so, it is, at a minimum, very disconcerting that in an age of such advanced technology, there would be so many questions raised about such an important process, and at a maximum, the questions that have been raised as to unfairness between northern and southern Wayland and large and small lots unfortunately leads one to question the honesty and integrety of the process.

    Is there anyone who is involved in or knowledgeable about the Wayland assessment process who believes that the serious allegations that have been made are not accurate, and would be willing to respond.

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