LETTER: Town Councilor Says Tax Increase Are Hurting Watertown Residents

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{Note: Angeline Kounelis originally sent this letter to Town Manager Michael Driscoll.}

Dear Editor;

On Nov. 24, 2015, the majority of the Town Council voted to accept the 20 percent Residential Exemption as presented in material prepared by the Town Assessor, Board of Assessors and Town Auditor for the allocation of property taxes between property classes for Fiscal Year 2016. During the presentation, it was clearly stated that single family and condominium owners could realize a savings of approximately $200. Multi-family dwellings would most be impacted with a possible five to $800 increase. These figures are now reality, and then some.

Of the options that have been presented to the Town Council for consideration, for many years I have advocated for a more fair and equitable increase of the owner occupied exemption to 25 percent that would shift more of the burden to absentee landlords. No one should be placed in a hardship position for merely having a roof over their head. It is a given, the cost of doing business could be passed-on to the tenant. This year, Councilor Woodland saw the light and voted against the motion, as did I.

There is a human element to understand when increases are imposed on owner occupied multi-family properties. The elderly and first-time home owners rely on the rental income to survive; in many cases, there is no profit. Modest, below market rate rents are charged because property up-grades are cost prohibitive for the owners. Property owners are now in a bind, unable to absorb the $500-$900 increases without raising rents. These are the amounts conveyed to me in recent conversations. There is a justified fear that average grade units/properties will remain vacant. Let us not forget, for decades, many East End properties have been occupied by extended families that assist one another. One property owner claims that the real estate taxes were a “disproportionate” assessment on the East End.

I have heard from many distraught East End property owners and others are enduring their privation in silence. Currently, many homeowners are not savoring the Watertown experience.

Please advise to the following:

1.  Why was the East End so severely impacted?

2.  What are the dollar amount increases and in what areas of Watertown?

3.  Was there a disproportionate assessment on the East End?

4.  What options are available for property owners and what is the time frame?

5.  What measures will be taken to guard against future inequitable increases?

6.  What assistance/relief is available for elderly property owners such as tax deferment?

7.  What home improvement options are available for the “house poor” in our community?

Thank you for your assistance.


Angeline B. Kounelis
District A, East End, Town Councilor

One thought on “LETTER: Town Councilor Says Tax Increase Are Hurting Watertown Residents

  1. I agree that something must be done to provide some relief to all owner occupied two families in Watertown. It is not only the east end that just received a swift kick in the butt as well as a shock when their tax bills arrived. I am in the west end and I just received a much larger tax increase than I thought was possible.
    – I wonder how the people who rent the apartments we have are going to react when they start getting their new leases with very large rent increases.
    – I wonder how much resistance this will cause for any increase in spending the town council wants to go forward with be they good or bad projects.
    Thank you for bringing this topic to the attention of the people of Watertown.

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