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Civics Sunday - Part VI: Board of Assessors and Board of Health

by The Publishers
March 24, 2019

Continuing our Civics Sunday series, we remind readers of our intent to provide brief descriptions of local boards, elected positions, or committees so as to prepare voters for the next Local Election on May 21, 2019, as well as to remind Holliston of our Annual Town Meeting on May 6, 2019.

Continuing our Civics Sunday series, we remind readers of our intent to provide brief descriptions of local boards, elected positions, or committees so as to prepare voters for the next Local Election on May 21, 2019, as well as to remind Holliston of our Annual Town Meeting on May 6, 2019.

This week’s column briefly describes two boards: The Board of Assessors and the Board of Health.  The following open positions are those we will be voting for during Local Elections:

            The Board of Assessors – 1 member 

            The Board of Health – 1 member                  

You may review previous Civics Sunday columns at any time by clicking on a link below:

Part I:  The Town Meeting

Part II:  The Town Moderator and Town Clerk

Part III: The Town Selectmen

Part IV: The Finance Committee

Part V: The School Committee


The Board of Assessors

Massachusetts General Law sets the Boards of Assessors’ terms and responsibilities.  Holliston’s By-Laws detail them for our community. 

Holliston has a 3-member Board of Assessors, each member serving a 3-year term, only one of which expires in any year.   Following the Annual Election, Assessors meet to choose a chair and a secretary (or clerk).  While holding office, a member may not also be the Collector of Taxes or the Deputy Collector of Taxes. 

Assessors determine or estimate property value for the purpose of taxation.  Their best skill and judgment must be used to make an assessment.  They must be impartial and accurate in their assessment, never over- or under-valuing. 

Each assessor must treat all tax abatement (abatement = a reduction or decrease) applicants fairly.  If an applicant makes a written request, an opportunity will be given to make his or her case in person to the Board of Assessors.

The MA Commissioner of Revenue has established minimum qualifications for elected assessors.  Each assessor is required to complete the basic course of training and pass the Assessors’ exam within two years of election, unless this person holds a MA Accredited Assessors certificate.  

Setting your property assessment involves studying sales of property in Holliston that occurred within a specified period.  It is based on the factors involved in the sales of all homes in general and homes like yours in particular.  (“Like” yours generally refers to style and location of the home.  If your home is a colonial, the major sales used for your assessment will be other colonials.)  The value of your home is refined for location, number of bedrooms and baths, among other factors that can enhance or detract from its value.

Among assessors' other responsibilities, they also provide property information to brokers, appraisers, attorneys, and the general public.  They certify abutters’ lists.  (An abutter is the person or entity whose property is adjacent to the property of another.)  They update assessments based upon building permit work and maintain a database for ownership.  Tax maps must be annually updated as well. 

Board of Health

In 1799, Paul Revere, Chaired Boston’s Board of Health, the first local health board in Massachusetts.  He and his Board had the authority to control “filth and offal” that contaminated the environment and produced deadly epidemics.  More contemporary health and safety issues may face members of today’s Boards of Health, but they assume a great responsibility.    

Under the MA General Laws, state and local regulations, and community direction, Boards of Health are responsible for disease prevention and control, and health and environmental protection, and the promotion of a healthy community.  They are the local Board of both the MA Dept. of Public Health and the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection. 

Holliston’s By-laws detail the term and responsibilities of the Board of Health.  This Board consists of three members, each elected for a term of three years, with only one term expiring in any one year, similar to the Board of Assessors.  Members may be people from any walk of life who care about the well being of their community. 

As stated on our Town of Holliston website, “the mission of the Board of Health is two-fold: to promote and protect the public health and safety, and to protect the environment.”  Today we know that human health is tied to the health of the environment.  The Board tries to be proactive in its service, constantly reviewing and expanding its efforts to meet our community’s needs.  Our Board is also a great resource for residents.

Among the responsibilities of the Board of Health, it may:

·         Develop, implement and enforce health policies;

·         Oversee inspections to maintain minimum standards for sanitation in housing and food service;

·         Assure that basic health needs of our community are being met;

·         Investigate all nuisances, sources of “filth and causes of sickness” to the town, destroy, remove or prevent these, and make regulations (for public health and safety) to contain infection or contagion brought into town; and

·         Appoint agents or directors of public health (in accordance with MGL).

Remember, we will be electing one member each to the Boards of Assessor and Health on May 21st.



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