Candidate at a glance

CITY RESIDENCY:
Lifelong resident of New Bedford
WORK:
Certified public accountant (CPA) operating a tax firm in New Bedford. 

Q&A
Kimberly Saunders

Tell us briefly about your qualifications and why you are running.

I have been an assessor for almost 12 years. I have a bachelor’s degree in accounting from UMASS Dartmouth and a master’s degree in taxation from Bentley University. I am a certified public accountant (CPA) operating a tax firm in New Bedford. The role of an assessor is to value properties based on Mass. General Laws. I follow Mass. General Laws for income taxes on a daily basis. I have already taken the assessor course and received my certification with the state. I would like to continue serving the residents of New Bedford by assuring the values are assessed properly.

What do you see as the most important task for the Board of Assessors in New Bedford? How would you work to meet that challenge?

The role of an assessor is to assign “fair and equitable” values to properties as the law requires. An assessor is responsible for the oversight of the Massachusetts appraisal process outlined by the Mass. General Laws. Assessors vote on the decisions recommended by the assessor’s office staff. It is our responsibility to make sure that the proper procedures are followed. The statistical analysis used is based on the condition of the properties and compares similar style and classes of properties. It does not involve knowing the identity of the owners of the property. I would explain that the assessors do not set the tax rate. The tax rate is set by the City Council and the mayor to fund the city budget. Therefore, if values increase, it does not mean that your taxes will increase. Your taxes will increase if the city budget increases.

When real estate prices rise, there are always some residents who are upset that their assessed home values are too high. Given the limited and very structured role of assessors, what do you say to someone who wants you to lower their home’s value so they won’t have to pay as much in taxes?

I would explain that an assessor is required to follow strict guidelines set by the state, which only involve valuing the properties fairly. We do not have the authority to arbitrarily reduce anyone’s property values. The only way to reduce someone’s property values is through the abatement process, if there was an error or the property is incorrectly reported (for example, the property incorrectly reported that there were three bathrooms when in reality there are only two). I would explain that the assessors do not set the tax rate, we only determine the values of the properties. The City Council sets the tax rate using the assessed values to properly fund the expenditures they adopted in their budget. The only way to reduce property taxes is to reduce spending.  If the city budget goes up, then the total property tax collected will need to go up to cover the budget.

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