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Clarksburg Lobbies State For More PILOT Funds
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
12:12AM / Thursday, January 24, 2013
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The Selectmen are hoping the state will pony up when it comes to PILOT funds.

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials are hoping to squeeze more payments in lieu of taxes from the state, which owns more than half the town.

Clarksburg has seen its PILOT funds ricochet over the past dozen years, from $33,000 to $8,000 during former Gov. Mitt Romney's tenure to now about $28,000.

One reason for the changes has been the state's inclusion of buildings in the PILOT program, which Selectmen Chairman Carl McKinney said "resulted in shifting money from the smaller communities like Clarksburg to the cities to the east."

McKinney and Town Administrator Thomas Webb said at Wednesday's board meeting that they had spoken at length about PILOT funds with the state Department of Revenue at a meeting to bring state-owned land off West Road into the program.

"Our PILOT payments are totally inadequate," said McKinney, who thought the payments should be closer to $200,000 a year, and more in line with what property owners are paying. "So in light of that, we made our feelings known that, hey, we need more money."

The state is the majority property owner in towns like Florida and Rowe as well, but both those towns have a greater commercial base because of Bear Swamp Hydroelectric and now Hoosac Wind, he said.

"Given that we don't have a lot of growth capacity our frustration was made known," said McKinney.

Homeowners have seen property taxes jump to $13.04 per $1,000 valuation this year. The increase in rates was caused by a drop of some $5 million in the town's assessed values and a nearly $200,000 increase in the town's budget.

"Our assessed values dropped $5 million so that is less taxing capcity we have so the town is in a crunch or a bind because the assessed values are going down and the expenses continue to go up," said McKinney.

He urged citizens to attend town meeting and vote as "the way to effect any change that you think is appropriate." He also called for them to contact the town's representative to push for more PILOT funds. In the meantime, the board will be working on some warrant articles for town meeting to expand abatements for seniors, veterans and the disabled.

The PILOT agreement on the West Road land, purchased in 2006, has been postponed until the amount of land in question is clarified. The deed put the acreage at about 130 but the town's maps show an estimated acreage of 257.

"To our knowledge there is no existing land survey for the propety so we are in the process of contacting the mapping company that takes care of our town maps," said McKinney.

The board also responded to an email from Debra Lefave, former selectman and Finance Committee member, who expressed serious concerns that town's recapitulation sheet on file with DOR did not match the figures approved on the town meeting warrant.

Lefave pointed to a $45,000 discrepancy in the amount to be raised and appropriated, as well as errors in the revolving fund for inspectors' fees, the sewer enterprise account and free cash.

McKinney said the sewer enterprise account was changed on the floor to reflect final figures from the Hoosac Water Quality District; the other errors were being reviewed by DOR and would likely be answered by next week.   

In other business, the relocation of the accounting office into the space shared by the building inspector and Planning Board has opened up two rooms (227 square feet and 589 square feet) on the south side of the building.

McKinney said the town would like to lease the space to bring in more revenue and will develop a request for proposals. "I think it's going to have to be reviewed carefully," he said, such as the leasees keeping the same hours as Town Hall. Anyone interested can contact Webb at 413-663-8250.

Kenny Brooks has been appointed as a temporary building inspector while Building Inspector Vincent Lively is out of town. Brooks, a former town inspector, is expected to take over the role again when Lively retires.

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