Select Board votes to maintain single tax rate

Nov. 7, 2018 | Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM – The Board of Selectmen decided at its Nov. 5 meeting to maintain a single tax rate.

Following a presentation by the Board of Assessors at the Tax Classification Hearing, the board unanimously voted for the single tax rate as opposed to a split rate.

“It seems to be the most balanced option,” Selectman Susan Bunnell said during the board’s discussion before the vote.

The projected tax rate for Fiscal Year 2019 is $21.80, down from $22.64. The tax rate has not yet been certified, but Principal Assessor Manuel Silva said the estimated tax rates are usually very close to the certified numbers.

Silva explained that the town maintained an almost identical ratio of residential property commercial and industrial, but the property values in town were on average 5 to 6 percent higher than the prior year, resulting in the lower rate.

The other two options presented were a residential exemption and a small commercial exemption. The residential exemption would have resulted in a maximum exemption of 20 percent, or $56,000, on qualifying homes. While this would result in a tax rate decrease for 2,628 homes, the burden of that would shift to 2,487 non-qualifying households, who would see an increase in their taxes.

The small commercial exemption would have offered an exemption of up to 10 percent of the value of commercial properties with less than $1 million valuation and employ no more than 10 people. Mixed use parcels are not included in this exemption. According the Silva, only 36 properties in town would have qualified for this exemption. Selectman Susan Bunnell noted the limited impact such an exemption would have in town.

Joseph Lawlor of the East of the River Chamber of Commerce (ERC5) also spoke and encouraged the selectmen to support a single tax rate. He noted businesses already face hardships, pointing to the recent sudden closure of Papa Gino’s on Boston Road as an example, and a split rate would shift even more burden onto the commercial tax base. He also asserted that commercial properties do not utilize the most expensive of the services supported by taxes, such as the schools. When later asked if any other communities in the ERC5 – Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Ludlow or Hampden – had a split rate, Lawlor said Longmeadow had a split tax rate at one point and lost businesses as a result and has since reversed course.

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