If you’re a property owner in Somerville, make an hour to sit down and watch the video on YouTube of last week’s first of two info sessions on how property taxes assessments were reached during the city’s recent triennial revaluation (search “Somerville City TV”).
The chatter has focused on the 50-plus percent increases to the assessed value of some properties around the city. Chief Assessor Marc Levye could have issued a terse press release noting that, in truth, those increases applied to 110 of 16,000 properties assessed. Of course, that number may be small, but it is obviously no small matter to the owners of those 110 properties (although one wonders what amount of those property owners knew they were paying less than their property was worth), and it should also be noted that no figure was given for how many properties saw 10, 20, 30 or 40 percent increases.
That Levye, representing his department, opted instead to prepare a concise and easy-to-understand presentation of both the revaluation process and the context in which happened, deserves credit, as does the laying out of the appeals process and potential exemptions available to property owners.
One resident at the first info session was right to point out that the assessing department is “feeling the heat” for market forces and circumstances well beyond its control. That Levye took to the microphone to explain the hows and whys, while not apologizing for his department doing its job and also expressing an understanding of the emotional impact emotionless math can have on residents, is a solid example of how city leaders need to act moving forward in offering straightforward information with a realistic view about what can be done given the facts at hand.