When Rockport taxpayers receive their bills in the coming week, inside they will find an additional piece of paper designed to explain where their money is going. The supplement was drafted by members of the Rockport Select Board, and is signed by Chairman Doug Cole.

Cole presented the concept for the supplement to the board at their Aug. 13 meeting, having heard from some members of the community that they were unaware of what factors caused their bills to increase or where their tax dollars were going.

Titled "Message from the Select Board Chairman," the document includes a pie chart depicting the percentages of taxpayers' bills which are devoted to the town's school assessment, municipal appropriations and Rockport's county assessment. The school assessment constitutes 67 percent of the overall cost, while municipal costs make up 26 percent of the chart. The remaining 7 percent represents the county assessment.

"Every year the staff at the town office and we, as select board members, are asked questions such as why did my taxes go up, or where do my tax dollars go?," begins the letter, which also refers to the municipal budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

"The Rockport Select Board and town manager worked hard to hold the increase of municipal spending to just 2.77 percent, while county appropriation increased 4.4 percent. The MSAD 28 school assessment went up 20.5 percent and the Five Town CSD budget decreased by .7 percent. Although town government sends out the tax bills and collects your payments we only control a small portion of that bill."

The letter ends by encouraging citizens to stay involved in school and county budget processes in order to stay abreast of tax bill increases, and Cole invites members of the public to contact him with questions. Before drafting the letter, Cole and select board members Ken McKinley, Debra Hall and Mark Kelley held a workshop to discuss the idea on Aug. 13.

"What I would like to do is heighten people's awareness of the current billing distribution section on their tax bill… it seems to me the simplest, cheapest and easiest way is to make some sort of a small insert," said Cole.

Hall said she supported the idea, and while living elsewhere and serving on homeowner's boards, similar illustrations of cost break-downs had always been included with bills. Kelley suggested that the supplement simply highlight the 26 percent which was appropriated to municipal costs, so that taxpayers could draw their own conclusions about the remainder without "picking on the school or the county."

McKinley suggested reformatting the tax bill to include highlighted areas and percentages, rather than adding an extra sheet of paper, but the board agreed that such a change would difficult to execute before the mailing deadline.

On Aug. 23 Rockport's assessor Kerry Leichtman said that the town's mil rate has increased by 9 percent — a change that will be reflected in taxpayers' 2019 bills. Leichtman attributed the increase to the costs associated with the new middle school as well as a decrease in state funding.

"While Rockport saw modest growth in real estate values during the past year, changes outside local government control have caused a 9.02 percent increase in the town's mil rate, to $16.08 from last year's $14.75. That translates into a tax increase of $356.97 per year on the average property valuation of $268,400," said Leichtman.