A 33-year-old Arlington accountant, Errol Tashjian aims to appeal to younger generation as he seeks a seat on the Board of Assessors.
Three are vying for the position held since 2001 by Mary Winstanley O'Connor. The board reviews the work of the town assessors' office, which is responsible for uniformly and accurately valuing all property, real and personal, within the town.
Here are Tashjian's responses to basic questions to all who take out papers. They have been edited:
Q: In general, why are you seeking this seat?
As a lot of younger folks and families come of age and become head of household in Arlington, it’s important that these taxpayers have representation on the Board of Assessors from their own generation, especially during a period of rising real estate values. The seat that I’m running for has been held since 2001, and while I commend the dedication to public service, it’s also clear that after 19 years, it’s time for some new perspective on the board.
As a millennial who joined the workforce during the Great Recession, I understand the struggles that newer residents in Arlington face day-to-day, whether it’s housing costs, student debt, job insecurity or child care. Part of the board’s mission is to promote the fair and equal treatment of the taxpayers, and my vision is to promote equality and work on behalf of every Arlingtonian.
Q: What specific qualifications do you have that support your candidacy?
Since 2011, I have been a certified public accountant and have been helping taxpayers with federal and state compliance for longer than that. In addition, I’ve spent my career in investment taxation on behalf of major financial institutions in the Boston area.
Q: What are the key issues you see facing the assessors?
According to town records, for the year 2020, Arlington’s residential tax base increased 9.48 percent over the prior year. The problem is that this rate is much faster than the rate of consumer inflation and wage increases for working people. Additionally, the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018 limited the state and local tax deduction to $10,000, making it more expensive for residents paying local taxes.
When factoring in the cost of a new high school and the various tax overrides, the biggest challenge for the board will be ensuring that these initiatives are paid for fairly, while balancing the economic realities of the residents.
Q: How would you address them?
My plan is to closely scrutinize process to make sure that property valuations are not artificially inflated. It’s a common practice that’s done in order to arrive at the mandated total property taxes the town must collect. However, inflating property assessments rather than tax rates is not as good a solution because it reduces the transparency of the actual true cost of the tax.
Arlington is a vibrant, diverse community, with people of all backgrounds. The effect of rising real estate taxes means it’s getting more difficult for the average Arlingtonian to afford the cost of living in this town. As a board member, I will promote a townwide adoption of a residential exemption, which would make real-estate taxes progressive. For example, such deduction would be taken from the assessed value before taxes are computed, shifting part of the tax burden from less valuable homes to higher ones. Although this means a higher tax rate for all, in reality, taxes would decline for many. Cambridge, Somerville, Boston and Waltham have already adopted these measures.
Q: What personal background can you provide?
I grew up in Lexington and received both my bachelor's in accountancy and master's of taxation degrees at Bentley University in Waltham. I’m an avid cook, cyclist and cinephile (a devotee of motion pictures). My wife and I moved here from Somerville with our cat, Sophie, and being a member of this community is like a dream come true. Being able to use my professional background to serve the people of Arlington would be a true honor.
Besides the incumbent, also seeking one three-year seat to the Board of Assessors is Gordon Jamieson, a Precinct 12 Town Meeting member.
This news summary was published Wednesday, March 4, 2020. All potential candidates in the April election have been asked a similar set of questions. All responses received will be edited and published.
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