The elected Board of Assessors is composed of three townspeople, each elected for a three-year term. Elected Assessors must pass a training course provided by the state Department of Revenue which teaches, among other things, the state-approved methods for assessing the value of all real and personal property in the Town. From this, you may correctly infer that Assessors are not allowed to use whatever methods they want in assessing property. They are required, both under the order of the State Supreme Judicial Court and Massachusetts General Law, to follow the procedures approved by the Department of Revenue.
Assessors perform two separate and distinct functions.
First, they oversee the paid Assessing staff in determining the assessed value of all real and personal property in the Town. They must approve and sign all values submitted annually to the Department of Revenue for certification. These values are one of two key components in determining the Town’s property tax rate for the fiscal year, the other being the total of the Town budget approved by Town Meeting.
The second function is to sit as a quasi-judicial body to hear property tax abatement applications submitted by taxpayers who feel their properties have been incorrectly valued. The Bedford Town Charter specifically assigns this second function to the elected Board of Assessors.
If I may offer a personal note, I want you to know that I am not running for re-election as an Assessor next month. I appreciate this opportunity to serve the Town and thank you, the voters, for the trust you have put in me these many years. As an outgoing Assessor, I offer the Town one final word of caution. From time to time others in Town government have discussed making the Board of Assessors appointed by the Select Board instead of elected by the voters. I urge the voters of the Town to beware of such a move and to strenuously oppose it. Changes to the Town Charter to allow this must be approved both by Town Meeting and at the Town Election.
An elected Board of Assessors, directly responsible to the voters, serves as a check and balance to other Town officials whose primary concern may be raising as much revenue as possible. You, the voters, give up this power at your own peril.