I note sadly that Mashpee is again discussing taxing nonresidents (who cannot vote) at higher rates than residents (who can). Once, a long time ago, we fought a war with Britain partially over that issue of taxation without representation. Thankfully, no war is likely now, but many of us thought that this practice had been firmly established as ethically unacceptable (whether it is legal or not).
It doesn’t even make financial sense, as much of the nonresidential real estate is already pulling above its weight. The families involved get relatively little direct benefit from the school program (perhaps 20 percent of the town budget, but their children don’t attend). They likely benefit relatively little from winter snow removal, et cetera. In many cases, they may only be in town about three months of the year. Whatever the exact numbers, they are likely paying for more than they are immediately receiving. Taxing them more seems like looking a gift horse in the mouth.
Long-term, many of them are “investors” in the town who could put their money elsewhere and may already be thinking about that given concerns about local environmental conditions. If they withdraw as a group, real estate values may drop, meaning the people remaining (the residents) will need to pick up an even bigger tab or reduce services (like schools, snow removal, et cetera).
Furthermore, the apparent proposal to provide relief to all “residents” in this way seems unnecessary, as many them are able and perhaps quite willing to support the town with taxes.
For many reasons, the idea of penalizing townspeople who cannot vote seems a less-than-optimal solution, but I do understand there is a concern about local residents who are facing hardship.
I would recommend a study to find another way to help. Perhaps the town could accept a lien on qualifying properties until the owners are more able to pay. Perhaps those liens could be extended until a property is transferred; perhaps a donation fund could be established to provide assistance. The situation of needy residents is not new to any town, and there are likely lots of strategies to consider. I just think the recent discussion reflects poorly on the town.
Some of you who read this will know that I am not currently a resident and that I am mostly out-of-town caring for a friend. I still believe I could qualify relatively easily as a resident and dodge this issue, but I just wouldn’t want to under the proposed circumstances.
Edward S. Rizzotto