, Newburyport, MA

December 7, 2012

Property tax hike less than expected for West Newbury

Lower Page School borrowing costs means 92-cent rate increase

By Jennifer Solis

---- — WEST NEWBURY — West Newbury property owners got a bit of good news this week to take with them into the new year.

Finance Director Warren Sproul told selectmen on Wednesday that property taxes will increase slightly less than he originally anticipated.

During the annual tax classification hearing, Sproul reported that under a single $15.75 rate per $1,000 of assessed property value, the average property tax bill would increase by $413.98 this year.

Officials originally projected a $16.26 tax rate, which was used to figure the first two quarterly tax bills of the fiscal year.

“We projected an increase and applied it to the preliminary bills so that it would not all hit on these last two bills, but rather be spread out over all four payments,” Sproul said.

Following the meeting, Sproul said, “Because of the Page School indebtedness, we had originally estimated its borrowing costs a little higher, but when the borrowing costs were realized, they were lower.”

The board agreed to adopt Sproul’s single tax rate recommendation. Of the total tax levy in West Newbury, 96.4 percent comes from residential properties, .084 percent commercial properties, 0.22 percent industrial and 2.5 percent personal property. Given the breakdown, the board said asking the town’s businesses to pay an increased share of taxes wouldn’t be fair.

Sproul said “ a combination of things” has helped to limit the increase in property taxes, including “reduced debt, not spending to the levy limit and $6.5 million of additional value in the commercial/industrial/personal property class to help spread the tax burden.”

He noted the average home value dropped slightly, from $454,591 last year to $454,321 this year.

The town’s year-over-year budget increased by a total of 8.3 percent. The town-side appropriation rose by 2.4 percent, with a 14.6 percent spike in education costs. Of that amount, 8.9 percent was for the Page School renovation project and 5.7 percent for operational cost increases for the schools.

The town has an excess levy capacity of $152,998. Having excess levy capacity means the town’s budget appropriation is smaller than what is permissible under Proposition 2 1/2.