By Dan Miller, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Westborough’s single tax rate will fall slightly for the 2022 fiscal year, dropping from $18.54 to $18.49 per $1,000 in assessed property value according to a presentation by the Town Assessor, Jonathan Steinberg, Nov. 23.
That will still lead to an increase in the average single family tax bill, though, which will rise from $10,003 to $10,328 as property values increase, according to the assessor.
The Select Board opted to move forward with that single tax rate, despite a push from Select Board member Patrick Welch to adopt a split rate.
Select Board member proposes split tax rate
Welch wanted to shift part of the tax burden from homeowners to commercial and industrial properties. He also pressed for changes to reduce taxes for eligible homeowners and small businesses.
The board outvoted Welch 4-1 in all three cases, with other members voicing concerns that now is not the time to add to businesses’ tax burden, especially as businesses emerge from the pandemic.
This debate was part of Westborough’s tax classification hearing for Fiscal Year 2022.
The average homeowner tax bill in Westborough has gone up in nine of the last 10 years, while the commercial tax bill has dropped in nine of the last 10 years, Welch said.
“That’s just not sustainable for our community,” he said.
Select Board Chair Allen Edinberg countered, saying that Milford had seen commercial property values drop after it adopted a split tax rate.
“You could say it backfired,” he said.
Select Board Member Ian Johnson said the single tax rate has helped make Westborough “a favorable destination” for businesses.
Changing the rate sends the wrong message to businesses Westborough seeks to attract, Sean Keogh added.
“There is a cost to being in a town like Westborough and for the services that we ask for and we vote for,” said Shelby Marshall.
She pointed to ways the town can help residents with their taxes without increasing costs on businesses, such as through the town’s Senior/Disabled Taxation Aid Committee which funnels donations to low and fixed-income homeowners.
Split tax rate debate plays out in neighboring towns
The kind of discussion around Welch’s split tax rate proposal as well as the opposition to it has recently played out at other area tax classification hearings in Northborough and Southborough in recent weeks.
Both those communities opted to stick with single tax rates, this year, with opponents of a split rate citing many of the same arguments noted in Westborough on Nov. 23.