WEST NEWBURY — As they have done in the past, selectmen followed the recommendations of the Board of Assessors — adopting a single-tiered tax rate and rejecting all optional discounts and exemptions offered by the state.
During a joint tax classification hearing with Chief Assessor Meredith Stone and the Board of Assessors, selectmen voted for a single tax rate for all classes of property.
The purpose of the annual hearing is to allow town officials to shift the tax burden between property categories if they choose.
The four categories of property in town are residential along with commercial, industrial and personal — also referred to as CIP. Some 97.3% of West Newbury properties fall in the residential/open space category, while CIP properties make up 2.7%.
Assessors favor taxing all types of property at the same rate because the benefit of varied rates to residential properties is minimal but would likely slow the development of big business in West Newbury and possibly drive smaller businesses from town.
“A shift would increase business taxes and provide no relief for residential taxes,” the assessors contended.
The tax rate comprises several elements — total taxable real estate and personal property, Town Meeting appropriations, state aid, town revenues, expenditures, new growth; debt exclusions, which result in temporary tax increases; and Proposition 2½ overrides, which are permanent increases.
Selectmen also rejected an open space discount of up to 25% because assessors determined it would — in reality — benefit neither the town nor taxpayers. They rejected a residential exemption of up to 20% for owner-occupied residential properties.
The exemption is aimed at shifting the tax burden from less-expensive properties by pushing it onto higher-valued residential and nonresidential properties.
“Benefits would be to communities with a high number of vacation homes or nonowner-occupied properties,” assessors explained.
The tax board also advised against a second exemption offered to benefit small commercial properties.
The 10% exemption would only benefit commercial properties, but the industrial class would still have to share the tax burden, assessors noted.
The owner of the property — not the business occupying the site — would receive the tax benefits and the process to qualify is “time consuming and cumbersome,” they added.
Stone reported that the average tax bill for next fiscal year would increase by approximately $50.47 with the average home rising just over 1.02% in assessed value.
To offset the increase in value and stay within Proposition 2½, the tax rate would drop from $14.57 per $1,000 of valuation to $14.42, she said.
The average tax bill is expected to be $8,351 for a property valued at $579,142, compared to last year when the tax bill was $8,300 on the average home valued at $569,716.
Assessor Tom Atwood noted it was “a good year” for new growth in town. This year’s new growth was $143,000 as compared to an average of $110,000 annually in recent years.
“New growth is the increase in property values due to new construction, improvements to properties, subdivisions, new condominiums, and the return of exempt property to the tax rolls,” assessors stated.
By adding the new growth number to the levy limit, the town’s taxing capacity increases.