Select Board Prepares for Charter Review Process

Town Last Reviewed Charter in 2013

Listen to this article

Reading, MA — Town Counsel Ivria Fried advised the Select Board on Tuesday that, according to the town charter, a charter review process is to begin in 2023. Fried stated that a Special Committee for Charter Review needs to be established and that the committee should be made up of a member or designee from the Select Board, School Committee, Board of Library Trustees, Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD) Board of Commissioners, and the Bylaw Committee. Additionally, the Moderator serves on the committee along with three Town Meeting members that he appoints to the committee for a total of nine members. Members need to be appointed by September 16. The Moderator will call the first meeting at which the committee will elect a chair, a vice-chair, and a secretary.

Town Manager Fidel Maltez

Town Manager Fidel Maltez reported that the Bylaw Committee and Library Board of Trustees had already made appointments and that both the School Committee and the RMLD Board of Commissioners had the appointments on upcoming agendas. Fried discussed the process of the charter review, informing the board that the last charter review, in 2013, comprised over twenty-five meetings and lasted fifteen months. Select Board member Christopher Haley volunteered for the role, noting that he is the only member of the board not already serving on a special or ad-hoc committee. The board will discuss their appointment at its next meeting.

FY25 Tax Rate

Assessor Victor Santaniello gave the board a quick preview in advance of discussions regarding the municipal tax rate. Santaniello reminded the board that currently, Reading has a 1.05 commercial shift in place for Fiscal Year 2024. When discussing FY 2025, he noted, “With the exception of North Reading, all our surrounding communities have shifted to their maximum allowable limit.” For Reading, the maximum allowable limit under Massachusetts General Law is a 1.50 commercial shift. In FY 2024, a shift of this type would have saved the average residential taxpayer $331 and would have cost the average commercial property owner $4,784.

Assessor Victor Santaniello

Santaniello continued to explain that communities choose to shift the tax burden on commercial properties to afford residential taxpayers the lowest possible share of the tax burden while equalizing the disparity of significantly rising residential property values with flattening commercial values. He did caution that a multi-year approach would be the best method to use if the tax rate were to shift.

Select Board member Mark Docker pointed out that Reading is already six years into this process, having first split the tax rate to 1.02 to accommodate senior tax relief in 2017. Member Karen Herrick also noted that additional property taxes are deductible by businesses on their income taxes while fewer individuals can do so. Both Haley and Select Board member Carlo Bacci opposed any increase in the tax rate shift in town. The Select Board will continue to review tax rates in October using actual property valuations.

Updates from Town Manager

Maltez provided brief updates on construction projects in town, including sharing that the Auburn Street water tower project will be “substantially completed” on schedule by the end of October. He was also quick to point out that Verizon will have a cell antenna on the new tower, along with all the carriers who previously occupied space on the former water tower in that location. Maltez also reported that the Birch Meadow Phase One project was proceeding well. Currently, drainage improvements are being made on the site of the former Imagination Station. The downtown water main project and repaving are also mostly complete.

Construction Tracker Demo

Town Engineer Ryan Percival provided the board with a demonstration of the construction tracker on the town’s website. Haley expressed concern that the tracker would need to be updated consistently. Maltez noted the struggle with this as the town is not always made aware of road closures and other issues in advance. Bacci did indicate that there had been “major improvement” in the town’s notification to businesses when roads will be closed.

Autumn Hendrickson

The Select Board also was given a presentation by resident Autumn Hendrickson on her research into the lives and experiences of Reading and North Reading residents who served in the Second World War. She is hoping to author several books as a result of her research. The Board voted 5-0 to approve a driveway width waiver for a new two-family home at 93-91 Green Street. The board also discussed the Dog Park Public Forum scheduled for Tuesday, July 25, at 8:00 p.m.

The Select Board adjourned at 9:50 p.m.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email