NORTHBOROUGH – The Northborough Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a single tax rate of $16.49 for Fiscal Year 2022 during their Nov. 22 meeting.
This translates to an average single-family tax of $8,195, representing an increase of $295 from the average bill of $7,900 in Fiscal Year 2021.
Principal Assessor Julie Brownlee had presented three tax rate classification options when she addressed the Board of Selectmen.
One of those options was a dual tax rate.
Instead of having one single tax rate, that split option would have offered a lower rate for residential properties and a higher rate for the commercial and industrial base.
“It’s important to understand that none of these three options change the amount of money raised by the town,” Brownlee said.
Under this single rate of $16.49, the average single-family home will pay $8,195. Commercial properties will pay an average of $28,035, while industrial properties will see an average tax bill of $72,277.
Selectmen also considered and rejected a residential and small commercial exemption during their tax discussion.
Town shares list of top taxpayers
Town staff presented a list of the top 15 taxpayers in Northborough at the Nov. 22 Board of Selectmen meeting.
The top payer was RPT Northborough LLC, whose major tenant is Northborough Crossing. Their tax under the Fiscal Year 2022 plan would be just under $1.67 million.
Northborough Crossing was followed by Avalon Bay Communities, whose tax would be about $1.4 million. Amazon’s tax came in at $1.1 million.
By shifting five percent of the tax burden onto commercial and industrial properties under a dual tax rate, the residential tax rate would have decreased to $16.19, translating to average tax bill of $8,046 for single family homes, Brownlee said.
For commercial and industrial properties, the rate would increase to $17.31, which would result in an average tax bill of $29,429 for commercial properties and $75,871 for industrial properties.
“This dual tax rate applies to small commercial property owners, as well as the bigger property owners,” Brownlee said.
Small business owners are “coping” with the economic stresses from COVID-19, she said.
Selectmen Leslie Rutan and Kristen Wixted asked about the circumstances under which dual tax rates have been or could be adopted.
“It comes down to what you’re trying to achieve as a community,” said Town Administrator John Coderre. “Our long-term strategy for economic development has been able to attract and retain a diverse tax base, which has the effect of subsidizing or balancing out the residential impacts.”
Coderre, who previously worked in Chelmsford, said that town had a five percent shift, which they worked to eliminate over five years as part of an economic development strategy.
It’s difficult to undo once done, he said.
“I guess, fundamentally, the conversation that we’ve had with the business community is that we want people to come, we want them to stay, we want them to feel like they’re being treated fairly,” Coderre said.
The Corridor 9/495 Regional Chamber of Commerce recently wrote a letter on this topic, voicing its support to continue a single tax classification. The Chamber said that option promoted a welcoming environment for new business growth and expansion.
“If a dual tax classification was to be adopted, this would result in increased costs to local businesses,” the letter said. “Due to the pandemic, area business owners are under unprecedented stress and the last thing they need in this situation is an increase in expenses.”
Others spoke on Nov. 22.
“I don’t believe that we’re ever really going to change into a dual tax rate, but I am going to say that I feel that we talk about fair and equitable, and really, do we hear anybody representing the resident,” said resident Lisa Maselli.
According to the town’s presentation, residential makes up 73.3 percent of Northborough’s assessed tax value. She contended that residents “are never given any representation.”
“It seems like we go through this process every single year, and it’s to a point where I think it’s time the residents also have representation, and I just don’t ever hear anybody coming in and speaking for them,” Maselli said.
UPDATE: This post has been updated to clarify that Selectman Leslie Rutan also asked questions about the circumstances under which dual tax rates have been or could be adopted.