, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 11, 2012

Breaking down the layers of the rising tax rate

Tonight, the City Council will hold its annual tax classification hearing during which councilors will likely vote to maintain a single tax rate for both residential and commercial properties.

As far as decision-making goes, that’s the only thing that will happen. The councilors don’t have the power to reduce the tax rate themselves, and there is little interest among the councilors in splitting the rate. The last time they did that, the council nearly started a riot in City Hall.

Regardless, there will likely be a large crowd in attendance to voice their displeasure toward Mayor Thatcher Kezer and the councilors for allowing the tax rate to increase again. The news that the tax rate would top the $20 threshold this year has caused frustration in Amesbury to boil over for some; and even if nothing can be done to lower the tax rate this year, tonight’s meeting will still serve as a forum for those who are unhappy about the tax rate to have their voices heard.

As for those of you who are wondering what all the fuss is about, this is what the issue boils down to.

First, you have the tax rate, which is determined by a mathematical formula in which you take the total dollars raised and appropriated in taxes and divide it by the city’s total property value in thousands. Amesbury’s tax rate for next year is expected to be $20.24 per thousand, which is $1.11 higher than last year’s rate.

Then, you have the tax bill, which is the actual amount that property owners pay in taxes annually. The tax bill is determined by multiplying the tax rate ($20.24) by the value of one’s property in increments of $1,000.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the average residential property in Amesbury — including single-family, multi-family, condominiums and apartments — will be worth $254,465. That means the average tax bill for Amesbury residents will be approximately $5,150.

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