SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 6, 2013

Average Salem taxes to rise by $103, $53

By Neil H. Dempsey
Staff Writer

---- — SALEM — The property tax bill for the average single-family home is slated to rise $103 after the City Council approved a recommendation from the city assessor’s office last night.

The changes will bring the residential property tax rate to $16.73 per $1,000 of assessed value and the commercial property tax rate to $32.05 per $1,000 of assessed value, according to material provided by the assessor’s office.

The changes mean the tax bill for the average single-family home will rise to $4,768, a 2.2 percent rise, and the bill for the average condominium will rise $53 to $3,612, a roughly 1.5 percent rise. Owners of average two-family properties will be hit harder, with their property taxes rising $217 to $4,694, a 4.8 percent increase.

Over the past year, the assessed value of an average single-family home in Salem just barely rose from $284,800 to $285,000, the average condominium dipped from $217,300 to $215,900 and the average two-family property rose from $273,300 to $280,600, according to the assessor’s office.

In her presentation to the council, Assessor Deborah Jackson noted that 75 percent of the city’s residential property base is composed of single-family homes and condominiums. She also said that 63 percent of single-family homes in Salem — 3,057 out of 4,864 — are worth less than the average value of $285,000, meaning they will see a tax hike of less than $103, and that 53 percent of all condominiums — 2,159 out of 4,066 — fall below the average value of $219,900, meaning their owners will be paying less than the $53 increase.

Jackson further noted that the tax levy she was recommending — $76,981,209 would be raised — was $3.6 million less than levy limit the city was allowed by Proposition 21/2, which caps increases at 2.5 percent, not including new growth.

In a letter to the council supporting the tax hike, Mayor Kimberle y Driscoll said that responsible budgets and spending habits have allowed the city to keep property tax increases for homeowners below the maximum allowed by Proposition 21/2.

“Working together to craft responsible budgets, while also being judicious in our spending habits, has put us in the position of being under our maximum allowed levy limit, freeing up capacity should we require it in future years to meet operational needs.”

Driscoll also said that this tax increase will be among the lowest on the North Shore, at least as far as things have shaped up so far. The average increase approved in Beverly this year was $216, in Marblehead $268, in Danvers $206, in Middleton $220 and in Hamilton $202. Peabody and Swampscott haven’t yet set their rates.

Last night, the City Council also approved a recommendation that $500,000 of the city’s free cash — money saved from the previous year or gained via unexpectedly high revenues — be used to offset the total to be raised by taxation.

The City Council also opted to keep the city’s split tax rate at 1.65, the rate it’s been at for about a decade. The split tax rate shifts a portion of the total tax burden away from residential properties and onto commercial, industrial and personal properties.

All votes regarding property taxes were passed unanimously by the 11 councilors present.

Neil Dempsey can be reached ndempsey@salemnews.com.