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O'Connor brings lengthy legal background to Board of Assessors

Mary Winstanley O'Connor, 2011

ELECTION'S EARLY LOOK: Brief profiles of those who have taken out nomination papers for major offices in the annual town election, set for Saturday, April 1.

Mary Winstanley O'Connor, the lone candidate for reelection to the Arlington Board of Assessors, brings 35 years of legal experience to a job involving fairness in how properties are rated for tax purposes. She has served on the board about 16 years.

Without opposition for a three-year term, O'Connor says she wants to "to continue to utilize my education and professional experience to serve the Town of Arlington."

Asked to cite three challenges the job poses and how she would address them, she responded in general: "One of the duties the Board of Assessors is charged with is ensuring that real and personal property in our town is valued at full and fair cash value."

Property values here heading up

She then touched on an issue many residents know well in recent years -- sharply rising property values.

"Over the last several years," she wrote, "we have seen many properties being sold substantially over asking price. The director of assessments and the board must carefully analyze sales data to ensure that real estate in our town is uniformly and fairly assessed based on, among other factors, current sales data."

Then O'Connor turned to a population broadly affected by these rising values: "For the elderly in our town on fixed incomes who have owned their homes for years, the increased assessments, resulting in increased property taxes, present a challenge."

To address the issue, she indicated, without naming them, that articles that this spring's Town Meeting will take up to provide the elderly homeowners below certain income levels with alternatives to help them pay their property taxes.

Placed in the warrant by the selectmen, the measures are:

Article 22 Acceptance of Legislation/Senior Property Tax Work-Off Program

Article 23 Acceptance of Legislation/Veteran Property Tax Work-Off Program

Article 24 Acceptance of Legislation/Elderly and Disabled Taxation Fund

Article 25 Acceptance of Legislation/CPI Adjustment for Elderly Residents

The language of these article will be known once the 2017 draft warrant is posted on the town's website.

Also for seniors

O'Connor added: "Also available to elderly residents who meet the age, income, asset and domicile/occupancy criteria are certain programs for property-tax relief contained in M.G.L. Chapter 59, Section 5, including elderly tax exemptions and the elderly tax deferral program."

Apart from such breaks, she pointed to an annual role of the Board of Assessors. Each year, she wrote, it devotes from six to 10 meetings reviewing applications for real-estate tax abatements and requests for exemptions. The board is required to review the exemption applications and uniformly apply the statutory criteria, she wrote.

Often, residents may satisfy certain of the criteria, but exceed the income limits, requiring the board to deny the exemption application as a matter of law, she wrote.

Apart from such hard decisions, she added that the board "appreciates and understands the fiscal challenges facing our elderly homeowners as their property values rise but their incomes remain unchanged. Instituting programs to assist the elderly with limited incomes will ease the burden.

"Further, effectively communicating the statutory options available (exemptions and the deferral program) is essential to inform those elderly and veterans on fixed incomes as to the relief available."

Legal background

The 59-year-old attorney has a graduate law degree in taxation. In 1979, she graduated from Boston College. In 1982 and 1983, respectively, I graduated from Suffolk University Law School and Boston University School of Law. She has completed the assessment administrative law, procedures and valuation course offered by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

In 1982, she was admitted to the Massachusetts bar. Since 2007, she has been the managing principal of the firm of Krattenmaker O'Connor & Ingber P.C. of Boston. Her practice includes general litigation with an emphasis on domestic relations, insurance defense litigation and landlord/tenant law.

She has lived in Arlington since 1972, graduating from Arlington High School in 1975.

Running unopposed in 2014, Winstanley O'Connor received 3,993 votes. Turnout that year was 20.08 percent.

Campaign website: None 

2017 town election: YourArlington information

Dec. 14, 2016: Town’s tax rate to decrease, yet taxes to increase

This news summary was published Saturday, March 4, 2017.

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