Property Values Up, Tax Rate Down

When property values go up, the tax rate goes down. That’s how it works, said Rochester Principal Assessor Chuck Shea on October 26 during the annual classification hearing with the Rochester Board of Selectmen.

Shea ran down the numbers as well as the Board of Assessors’ recommendation to continue with a single tax rate instead of a split tax rate that would shift some of the financial burden off of residents and onto commercial and industrial businesses.

“In the Town of Rochester we have so few commercial and industrial properties,” said Shea.

About 86% of the town is residential, with the remaining 14% commercial and industrial.

And, although there are a good number of solar farms operating in Rochester, they are tax-exempt as far as the value of the solar arrays. Only the value of the land can be assessed and taxed.

Residential property values increased this year by 4.68%, with last year’s average single-family home assessed at $366,755 up to $384,200 this year. The tax bill for the average home last year was about $5,174.19 with a tax rate of $14.11 per $1,000 in property value. This year, the average single-family home tax bill will be around $5,378.08 at a rate of $14, a difference of $203.89.

According to Shea, the cumulative assessed value of all real estate in Rochester, including commercial and industrial property and personal property, totals $949,388,800, an increase of about $4,035,000 from last year.

“We expect our levy to be approximately $13,300,000,” Shea told the board, up from $12,842,000 last year.

Before approving the new tax rate, selectmen weighed the pros and cons of a split tax rate, which could have varied starting on the lower end at a 5% shift – $13.89 for residential and $14.70 for commercial – all the way up to a 50% shift – $12.86 for residential and $21 for commercial.

Shea said that agricultural properties are valued as commercial properties, and if the rate is increased via a split tax rate, it shifts the burden onto people like cranberry growers and hayfield farmers.

Both the Selectmen Chairman Greenwood “Woody” Hartley and Selectman Brad Morse are cranberry growers.

“It seems unfair because we don’t have a lot of businesses in town and it seems unfair to shift it to agriculture and they don’t really use the services that we provide,” said Selectman Paul Ciaburri. “And seeing as how we have a hard time attracting business and keeping business in town, why would we want to alienate them even more? It just seems like it’s unfair that we always pick on business.”

Of interest, Shea said smaller homes on smaller lots in Rochester have increased more in value than larger homes on larger lots. He also said that, if the Town was allowed to include tax-exempt commercial property such as solar into the total property valuation this year, it would top $1 billion for the first time.

“Marion and Mattapoisett have already reached that point,” said Shea.

In other matters, the selectmen voted to accept the Fall Special Town Meeting Warrant and post it. They voted that day to recommend Articles 4 and 9, adoption of the Stretch Code General Bylaw, and a bylaw amendment to exempt motor boats on town ponds for the purpose of scientific or environmental study purposes, respectively.

The next regular meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for November 5 at 6:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

Rochester Board of Selectmen

By Jean Perry


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