The Provincetown Select Board at its last meeting on Aug. 28 dramatically increased the residential tax exemption (RTE) from 25 percent (where it had held steady for several years) to 35 percent, the maximum allowed under state law.
The RTE shifts a portion of the residential property tax burden from most of the town’s year-round resident homeowners to part-time resident homeowners.
The select board’s process (or lack thereof) in reaching this decision should give pause to all of us — renters, property owners, business owners, and workers. The board’s utter disregard for the recommendations of town personnel as well as the concerns of the public was remarkable. Its reasoning for this decision was completely opaque.
Every year the select board must vote on the RTE at the annual tax classification hearing. This year, the town’s principal assessor (the person paid to look at this stuff — is it working? does it make sense to continue or to increase it?) recommended holding steady at 25 percent. The same recommendation was made by the board of assessors on a 4-0 vote.
The Provincetown Part-Time Resident Taxpayers Association (PPRTA) gathered comments from part-timers who expressed their concerns: there is no effort to determine who needs help and who can afford to bear the extra burden; some part-timers are on fixed incomes and will be picking up the tax burden for others who are very much not on fixed incomes; the RTE has always created and continues to create division in our community; increased taxes combined with rental restrictions will change Provincetown’s demographic and lead to “Nantucket-ization,” as some have called it (no disrespect to Nantucket); homes will be sold to those who can absorb a higher tax bill and do not need or want to rent, leading to greater division and making the town emptier and emptier in the off-season.
You may be saying, “Not my problem.” But you should care about this: the select board’s process.
The board responded to none of the above concerns. There was no discussion whatsoever as to whether the 25-percent exemption has helped with housing challenges (the purported reason for the RTE in the first place) or whether an increase will matter. No discussion of any benefit in jumping to 35 percent. Not even, “We hear your concerns but here is why….” The board did state that nonresidents can take advantage of the RTE by renting their homes year-round (which is difficult if you actually want to use your home).
There was literally no analysis whatsoever supporting the jump from 25 to 35 as opposed to say 27 or 30. It was as simple as picking pizza or pasta for dinner.
The town assessor estimates that part-time residents own over 80 percent of residential parcels and pay over 80 percent of the residential property taxes, plus additional personal property tax. Of the estimated 4,000 housing units in town, approximately 3,200 homes are owned by part-time residents. Yet part-time residents (the group most affected) were not included in the discussion.
Whatever your feelings regarding the RTE, all Provincetown residents should be concerned about the flawed process employed in this case by the select board. Next time, it could be you and your concerns and your opinions over a matter affecting you.
We are all in this together. The PPRTA is asking the select board to reconsider its decision to raise the RTE. Placing an additional and unjust tax burden on the largest contributor of tax revenues is unfair and short-sighted and will lead to further acrimony in the community. At the very least, please allow some meaningful participation in the process to give some semblance of balanced input and transparency.
Pat Miller is president of the Provincetown Part-Time Resident Taxpayers Association. She lives in Provincetown and Brooklyn, N.Y.