CHESHIRE -- Town officials are looking to set this year's tax rate to prevent confusion among residents this coming spring, but they must wait on the state before they can do so, Selectmen said at Tuesday's regular meeting.
Setting this year's tax rate requires coordination with state Division of Local Services (DLS) employees, who must first visit the town and confirm the assessor's figures. Before the tax rate can be fixed, these figures need approval from the state Department of Revenue (DOR).
But a visit from DLS scheduled for last week never materialized, and without DOR approval, the town can only issue preliminary tax bills based on last year's rate.
Selectmen fear this could be confusing for some residents because they'd receive a second bill in the spring correcting the disparity between the amount individuals paid on the preliminary tax rate and this year's actual rate.
"Either the town will owe people money or they'll owe money to the town," Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said Friday.
Francesconi said officials want to get the bills out as soon as possible, in the October-November range, to begin collecting revenue the town needs to cover its own expenses for the remainder of this year and into early 2013.
"[Getting the tax rate out in October] gives us money to continue running the town in an efficient financial manner," Francesconi said. "It prevents us from having to take out short-term loans
Last week, officials sought approval from DOR to issue preliminary bills based on last year's tax rate. Though undesirable, Selectmen nonetheless prefer this option to paying interest on short-term loans.
The window before these preliminary bills are sent to residents is closing, because DOR certifications typically lag several weeks behind a visit from DLS.
At Tuesday's meeting, Selectmen entertained the option of seeking assistance from state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi (D-North Adams) or U.S. Sen. Scott Brown on the matter.
According DOR spokesman Dan Bertrand, however, the DLS visit has been rescheduled to next week.
Bertrand spoke to the issue Friday, crediting the town with getting its assessment out of the way early, comparing it to "eating vegetables and doing homework."
"The Division of Local Services has and will continue to work with the town of Cheshire," Bertrand said.
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