NORTHBOROUGH – Following Monday night’s annual tax classification hearing, the town will retain its current single tax rate for fiscal 2024.
The hearing was held during the Nov. 20 Select Board meeting.
The tax rate will be $14.28, which will result in an increase of $342 for the average single-family tax bill. The average single-family tax bill will be $8,917.
According to Principal Assessor Lee Keomanivong, cities and towns certified by the state as assessing property at full fair cash value have the option to shift the tax burden. During the hearing, the board adopts a residential factor that is then used by assessors to determine what percentage of the tax levy will be borne by each class of property.
The Select Board weighed four options – a small commercial exemption, residential exemption, open space discount and a single or split tax rate. The board did not adopt the exemptions or the open space discount.
If the town adopted a split, or dual, tax rate, the amount of the tax levy borne by residential properties would decrease while the commercial, industrial and personal property’s share would increase.
“The levy itself does not change. You’re actually shifting who pays what,” said Keomanivong.
He estimated that for every dollar saved for residential properties, the commercial tax bill would increase by about $6.85.
Residents, businesses advocate for single rate
During the tax classification hearing, the Select Board unanimously voted to retain the single tax rate. Prior to the meeting, the town received numerous letters from residents, businesses and the Corridor 9/495 Chamber of Commerce urging the board to maintain the town’s single tax rate.
“I know you’re looking at strongly revitalizing your downtown, and I truly believe this is the right direction to go to,” said Corridor 9/495 President and CEO Karen Chapman during the meeting.
Select Board member Kristen Wixted said, as the town worked on downtown revitalization and bringing in businesses, “I think right now would be a bad time to change the tax rate.”
She was echoed by Laura Ziton.
“I think, similar to Kristen, right now with so much uncertainty in the economy – as much as I love the idea of finding creative ways to save money – I don’t think this is the right time to further burden our businesses,” said Ziton.
During the meeting, Select Board member Lisa Maselli read a letter from a resident advocating for dual tax rate, which they said is needed to ensure that residents of all ages and financial means could live comfortably.
Maselli said she was “very happy” with keeping the single tax rate.
“I’m sometimes surprised at how much emphasis and questions are put on this dual tax rate every year,” she said.
Maselli added that next year may be different “with a lot of new things coming on the board.”
Resident and former Select Board member Jason Perreault advocated for preserving the single tax rate.
“I’m a little puzzled by the comments of the board members because I think in other venues, at times, they have suggested looking at a dual rate, and that has spurred some reaction among the business community and some residents,” Perreault said. “If there’s some lack of understanding about that, I would say it comes from that past representation and past positions that they may have taken in that regard.”
If consideration of a dual rate comes up in the future, he said it couldn’t be evaluated and decided upon in the context of a single tax classification hearing.
“It’s certainly much more complex than other undertakings that the town has done and requires something on the order of a year-long study to fully understand any effects that would accrue from that, positive or negative, and then make a policy decision based on that,” said Perreault.