Property Values Up, Tax Rate Down

            Rochester property values have increased, which means the tax rate will go down for fiscal year 2020.

            The Rochester Board of Selectmen on November 4 met with the Board of Assessors for the annual tax rate classification hearing, and adhered to the assessors’ recommendation that Rochester keep a single rate rather than a split rate.

            A split rate would shift the tax burden more onto commercial and industrial property owners and would provide some relief to residential property owners, versus the one rate to which all properties are taxed for every $1,000 in property value.

            “We’ve never had a split rate in the town in the past,” said Principal Assessor Charles Shea.

            The new single tax rate this year is $13.48, down from $14 last year; however, property values have gone up, with the average single-family home valued at $413,400 compared to $384,200 last year.

            The average residential property owner should see a roughly $193.83 increase over last year, with the average bill standing at $5,204 per year.

            The “average” value of a home in Rochester, however, doesn’t accurately reflect what property owners will actually pay in taxes, said Shea, “Because there is no ‘average’ house out there. I can’t point to an average house.”

            The average home value is determined by taking the cumulative total of all residential property in town – $884,876,345 – and dividing it by the number of homes.

            “That’s as complicated as it gets,” said Shea.

            According to Shea, the more “modest” homes on smaller land parcels have increased in value proportionately higher than the larger homes on larger parcels, meaning a proportionate increase in their tax bills as well. Those smaller homes, Shea said, “This is where the assessment gets difficult, but fair is fair.”

            Smaller homes built in the 1950’s and ‘60s saw the most increase in value, Shea said.

            As for condominiums, the average assessment this year went up only by just under 1 percent, from $383,600 to $386,095, resulting in an average reduction in taxes of $165.84.

            “That’s just the way that the market goes,” said Shea.

            Many of these units are elderly units, said Shea, with no children in school, “But they pay full and fair taxes on their units.”

            Residential taxes account for over 85 percent of the tax levy, with commercial contributing about 4 percent, industrial roughly 4.85 percent, and personal property nearly 5.6 percent.

            The cumulative total in commercial property value stands at $42.3 million. Industrial was assessed at about $50.3 million and personal property was assessed at nearly $60 million.

            In total, Rochester property has exceeded $1 billion at exactly $1,035,420,960.

            The expected tax levy for FY2020 is roughly $13.9 million, up from about $13,291,000 million last fiscal year.

            This year’s property reevaluation was certified earlier last week, and bills will be mailed out to residents beginning the end of this week.

            In other business, Selectman Brad Morse made a concerned announcement about the need to take a proactive approach to solid waste management due to the uncertain future of the transfer station in Rochester, owned by the Carver, Marion, Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District and utilized by Rochester residents.

            The CMWRRDD plans to shut the transfer station down before the end of 2020.

            “Not knowing where that’s going, we’re going to be looking at doing some research as to whether we’re going to be providing a facility in our town,” said Morse.

            Rochester currently has one sticker that residents may buy to access the transfer station and the beach, but that will need to be broken up into two stickers as it was initially, said Morse.

            The CMWRRDD will be issuing a separate sticker for transfer station use on December 31, 2019.

            Morse said that if Rochester intends to operate its own transfer station for its residents, then it would have to determine the cost of engineering and operations, which would then determine the cost for a sticker.

            “If we’re going to have our own transfer station that we’re going to have to fund, we’re going to have to fund it through sticker fees,” said Morse.

            Also during the meeting, the board appointed Michelle Donovan as the town’s new full-time police officer.

            Gail Roberts of the Plumb Library announced a vacancy for a Library Trustee. Anyone interested in serving as a Library Trustee may send a letter of interest addressed to the Board of Selectmen.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for November 18 at 6:00 pm before the 7:00 pm Fall Special Town Meeting at Rochester Memorial School.

Rochester Board of Selectmen

By Jean Perry

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