NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 28, 2012

Amesbury property tax rate may set record in state

May be no. 1 in Mass.

AMESBURY – With taxes set to rise again, Amesbury may be on the verge of earning the dubious distinction of having the highest tax rate in the state.

In a memo to the City Council, Mayor Thatcher Kezer said that the tax rate for the upcoming year would be increasing from $19.13 to $20.24, assuming the council votes to maintain a single tax rate.

In 2012, a tax rate of $20.24 per thousand would’ve ranked as the highest in the state among communities with single tax rates, with Sharon being the only other community topping the $20 threshold. Most Massachusetts communities haven’t set their rates for the upcoming year yet, but compared to the 103 that have, Amesbury’s new rate would be the highest by a wide margin.

One of the main reasons cited by the mayor for the tax rate increase is the sharp decline in residential property values, particularly in the condominium market. Kezer said the city experienced a $67 million decrease in total property values in the past year, driven heavily by an 8.9 percent decrease in the average condominium value from $169,721 to $154,614.

“Even if we didn’t increase the taxes by $369,000, which is very moderate on a $51.3 million budget … the rate would have gone up 90 cents simply because of the loss in value,” Kezer said.

While the higher tax rate is sure to garner the most attention within the community, the city’s tax bill is ultimately what will have an impact on the pocketbook of residents and businesses. Kezer said the average single-family property’s bill would increase by $128.44, which is slightly more than the $122 increase from 2010 to 2011.

In 2012 the city’s average tax bill ranked No. 62 in the state for single-family homes, and at this point it’s too early to say where Amesbury will rank next year.

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