The Devil is in the details, but so, too, is the truth.
Knowing the details is knowing the facts, and knowing the facts is key to understanding issues and situations.
For example, as much as the potential loss of Patsy’s Pastry Shop may be a sincere and legitimate cause for sadness, the fact that the owners of the business also own the building may not minimize the personal and historical impact on residents of its demolition in the near future, but it does change the narrative from one of eviction and displacement to one of perhaps being made an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Likewise, the concern and furor over skyrocketing tax bills has led to comments about through-the-roof tax increases in some cases, and that’s not exactly accurate.
Tax bills are calculated on an A-times-B equation. The tax rate (“A”) is multiplied by $1,000 per assessed value (“B”). The actual tax rate, by state law, cannot increase beyond 2.5 percent (barring a voter-approved override). What has happened in Somerville is not that the tax rate has dramatically increased; it is that the “B” in the equation has gone up. In simple terms, and not to be patronizing, when “A” (the tax rate) is multiplied by “B,” the final figure will obviously be much larger if the “B “ has increased. Whether that is the result of an economy coming out of the recession (remember, we were in one – a deep one – during the past few triennial valuation cycles) or a clever way to reap more while getting around Prop 2 ½ will remain hotly debated. Still, it is important to differentiate between skyrocketing tax bills and tax rates.
Acknowledging the facts doesn’t ease the pain, but at least it’s a starting point for a discussion that can at least be rooted in reality.