SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 20, 2013

Typical homeowners to pay $130 more

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — A typical single-family homeowner with a $350,000 home would see taxes rise by $130, or 2.6 percent, after selectmen voted for a factor that shifted the tax burden slightly more on to commercial, industrial and personal properties.

Last night, selectmen held the annual tax classification in a year when assessors left most of the town’s property values unchanged.

Under the plan approved last night, typical homeowners would see a $5,219 bill.

Typical condominium owners with a unit assessed at $220,000 would see their taxes rise 2.5 percent, or $81, for a $3,280 tax bill, according to figures provided in a report by Chief Assessor Marlene Locke.

Finally, the typical commercial and industrial property owner with a property valued at $1.3 million would see a 3.8 percent increase in taxes and a $27,287 tax bill, a hike of nearly $1,000.

Last night’s tax classification hearing was a step in assessors setting a tax rate, as the tax factor determines what percentage of the tax burden is to be borne by homeowners, and how much is to be borne by commercial, industrial and personal property taxpayers. Selectmen do this by choosing a tax factor between 1 and 1.50.

The shift in the tax burden then creates a split tax rate between residential properties and commercial, industrial and personal ones. Classification determines how much of the tax levy is raised from each class of property. This year’s tax levy is about $65 million.

After a lengthy discussion, the board hit on a 1.27 tax factor, up slightly from the 1.26 tax factor last year.

The vote was 3-1, with selectmen Chairman Gardner Trask dissenting, as he favored a tax factor that would have given the average property owner in all classes a roughly 3 percent increase.

Selectman David Mills started the discussion and called the 1.26 tax factor “as fair as possible,” but he had to leave the meeting before the vote due to a prior commitment, Trask said.

A majority on the board sided with a former colleague, former Selectman Keith Lucy, who arrived with a host of handouts and spreadsheets as he made the case that the board should factor in new growth when determining the tax factor.

“What’s missing is the change in value of the non-new growth,” Lucy said in looking at information from assessors provided to the board. His notion was that the town was becoming more commercial, and so the shift in the tax burden should reflect that, and it was an argument the majority went along with. Trask said the tax factor of 1.27 “burdens business more,” and he favored the 1.26 factor because it increased all average properties equally.

The town benefited from $906,000 in new growth, with $380,000 coming from residential growth, $282,000 from commercial growth, $20,800 from industrial growth and $222,000 from personal property growth.

Under the shift approved last night, the estimated tax rate would be $14.91 per $1,000 and $20.99 per $1,000, though these numbers could change when they are approved by the state Department of Revenue.

As he has in the past, resident and business owner Al Allain argued for a single tax rate, to make things fair for businesses, which are getting squeezed in today’s economy. However, he acknowledged that moving to a single rate would cause residential tax rates to rise.

“It’s very difficult to get the genie back in the bottle,” he said of classification.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.