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Ashland tax rate set at $28.43

November 19, 2020
ASHLAND — At their Nov. 16 meeting, the Ashland selectmen approved the 2020 property tax rate, heard a presentation on automatic electric meter reading, and dealt with Plymouth State University students playing basketball on the Town court.

Town Manager Charlie Smith explained that he had met with the state Department of Revenue Administration on the 2020 property tax rate for the Town. The proposed tax rate would be $28.43 per $1,000 of valuation. The breakdown of the new rate is $10.39 for the Town, $1.71 for the County, $14.37 for the local educational tax, and $1.96 for

the state educational tax. The new tax rate is a 48 cent increase over the 2019 tax rate of $27.95, with a 9 cent increase in the Town tax, a 65 cent increase in the local educational tax, a 12 cent reduction in the County tax, and a 14 cent decrease in the state educational tax. The Town Manager and the selectmen did discuss the use of the

unassigned fund balance to reduce the tax rate. Some money from the unassigned fund balance was allocated for various purchases by the voters approving warrant articles at the 2020 annual meeting. The argument was made that using the fund balance to pay for long term purchases in that way was better than using it to just reduce the tax

rate. it was pointed out that some of the unassigned fund balance could be needed to address unexpected expenses. Smith noted that the growth in the Town's assessed value did have a significant impact on the tax rate, calculating that without that increase in value, the property tax rate would have been $28.88, 45 cents higher than the

actual new rate. The selectmen voted unanimously to approve the proposed tax rate.

Dan Scrima and Dave Ofcarick of the Eaton Corporation made a presentation to the selectmen on automatic electric meters for the Ashland Electric Department. These new meters would transmit their information to three data collectors that would in turn send that information to the Utility Office. The new system would cost $325,000 to $350,000, which could be paid after installation in a lump sum or over a period of up to ten years as a lease-purchase. The first payment would not be due until months after the system was up and running. Currently, Electric Department employees visit each meter in the town every month and manually record the data on the meter. Over time, the savings in labor costs are expected to cover the cost of the new system. The Eaton representatives also spoke on other things that could be done with the data collected by the new system. The meter reading system could be integrated into the electric billing system, and could be expanded to include the water meters, which are now read

remotely. They also discussed a separate engineering study for the upgrade of the Town's substation.

Plymouth State University students playing basketball at the Town playground have caused concern to Ashland residents who have been calling the selectmen to complain. Apparently, some were thought to be the students who are being quarantined for Covid 19 infections or for exposure to infected people in the Quality Inn on West Street. It was

however pointed out that a number of PSU students rent apartments in Ashland. The selectmen felt that they should take some action to curtail the use of the basketball court, so they asked the Public Works Director to remove the basketball hoops if possible and to turn off the lights so the court cannot be used in the evening. The fall

semester at PSU is actually drawing to a close with the last finals being held next Tuesday, Nov. 24. The University will then be closed until January.

Public Works Director Craig Moore reported that paving at the Town Garage was almost completed. Workers from Pike Industries were to return for a couple of hours on November 18 to finish up. The work seems to have largley solved the drainage problems in the area, with more than 90 percent of the water now going where it should go.

The selectmen ended their meeting with a non-public session on hiring an employee.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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