SHREWSBURY – Shrewsbury Principal Assessor Ruth Anderson said her office has been inundated with calls after most residents saw a “very significant jump” on their tax bills this year.
She said this during a meeting with the Board of Selectmen on Jan. 11, acknowledging that this reaction wasn’t necessarily a surprise for town officials.
“You knew this was going to hit some people hard,” Anderson told the board. “And unfortunately you were right. It’s hitting some people really hard.”
Shrewsbury considers tax relief fund
Anderson discussed plans to establish a tax relief fund that would be funded by donations and fundraising.
She said it would be separate from the budget and managed by a committee, which Anderson would sit on.
“In general, the way it would work is all the money we bring in every year we would send out every year,” Anderson said.
Additionally, she proposed changing the parameters governing tax exemptions to make more community members eligible. Those changes would be brought to Town Meeting.
Tax bills increase for FY22
The selectmen voted back in November to adopt a residential tax rate of $14.11 for the 2022 fiscal year.
At that time, staff estimated that the $14.11 rate would translate to an average single-family home tax bill of $7,382.56 – a 16.17 percent increase from the previous year.
In a pamphlet to residents, staff said assessed property values in town have increased. Additionally, Shrewsbury voters approved a Proposition 2 1/2 override last year and a Community Preservation Act surcharge that took effect in 2022.
According to Anderson, there are provisions that would allow the town to be more generous with its tax exemptions. For example, Shrewsbury could lower its age requirement to obtain such an exemption or raise its limit of income and assets.
Anderson said the latter of those options has never been done in Shrewsbury.
“If you think for a moment, the income limit to qualify for one of our exemptions is $20,000. You can’t make more than $20,000 and get this credit,” Anderson said. “It’s antiquated. So there is provision in the law where we can change that.”
She said the town could also change the size of the tax credit. For instance, Anderson said the town could double one of the exemptions for seniors, which would translate to a $2,000 tax credit.
“Those are the kind of things that I would like the board to be thinking about as we get closer to Town Meeting and the warrant timing — just so that it’s not a surprise and that it’s somewhat familiar to you all when we get to that point,” Anderson said.
Selectman weighs in on proposals
Anderson said she worked with Selectman Maurice DePalo, who said he was looking for ways to help seniors before the override.
What Anderson is proposing needs to be looked at, DePalo said.
“As long as I’ve been on the board, none of these things have changed, and quite honestly, one of them I didn’t even know could be changed,” DePalo said. “But I think the town has to have a discussion about it and seriously consider making adjustments to try to help people who are truly being taxwise priced out of the town.”
He said he hoped something could be brought to the selectmen to be placed on the warrant for this year’s May Town Meeting to help bring relief to residents within the calendar year.