NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — The Northborough Board of Selectmen voted Monday night to maintain a single property tax rate for all classes of property in town for fiscal year 2013, following the advice of the Board of Assessors.
Selectmen also rejected residential exemptions or small commercial exemptions, per the board of assessors’ recommendation.
Town Administrator John Coderre told selectmen that the town has voted to keep a single tax rate since 1979. Under this system, owners of all four classes of property—residential, commercial, industrial and open space—pay the same tax rate, which is set at $16.11 for FY13.
Under a split tax rate, one class of property pays more in taxes in order to provide another class with relief. Typically, towns who split their rates charge commercial and industrial properties more to offer residential homeowners a tax break.
Principal Assessor Dan Brogie explained that if Northborough pursued such a change, the town would have to greatly increase commercial and industrial taxes in return for modest residential tax savings. A 5 percent shift would save the average single-family homeowner $104 annually while costing the average business between $1,000 and $2,000, he said. This is because, despite recent commercial growth, he said about three-quarters of the town's value consists of residential properties.
Coderre argued that keeping a single rate has helped the town attract and keep businesses over the years by maintaining "a level playing field."
"That's a very powerful fact," he said. "We've been very consistent about how we've approached classification in the town of Northborough."
To emphasize the town's growth, he pointed out that in FY13, the town's total valuation has increased by $12.6 million to $2.49 billion. This includes a record $92.9 million in new growth, of which $54.9 million comes from Northborough Crossing.
Though Coderre cautioned selectmen, saying that they should not expect this kind of growth in future years, he added that the growth has been beneficial to the town. For example, the average single family homeowner was estimated to see a $193 tax increase in FY13. That amount has since been adjusted to $67. In fact, Coderre said that average tax increases have slowed over the past three years, when they went up by $189 over the entire period. This is less than the average increase in each prior year.
Meanwhile, the town has been able to maintain a level-service budget, even during a tough economy that has seen falling home values. "Nobody's been laid off [in town government]," Coderre said. "The schools are still top performing,” he said, adding, “and our services are still intact."
Selectmen unanimously supported continuing their tax policy.
"The practices of the past have worked," Selectman Jeff Amberson said. "Part of the reason that companies want to do business in Northborough is because of the tax rate and fairness to the system."
"The data to me is pretty clear," he added.