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Belmont RE Tax Rate Falls But Tax Bills Won't

Increase of four percent in housing values will offset two cent drop in tax rate, leaving Belmont residents will one of the top property tax bills in the state, US.

The good news: the Belmont Board of Assessors has chopped off two cents from last year's property tax rate.

The bad news: the valuation for that house your living in has in all likelihood gone up so that the next quarterly bill coming out Jan. 1 will be heading skyward.

That's the conclusion for nearly all Belmont property owners as the Belmont Board of Selectmen essentially approved the new tax rate for the town at its Monday meeting, Dec. 17. 

The drop from $13.35 to $13.33 per $1,000 in assessed value of the property is due in large part of a four percent increase in all properties in Belmont and a decrease in the town's tax levy capacity, said Robert Reardon, chairman of the Assessors.

The end result is that Belmont taxpayers will remain in the dubious top ten category of communities in Massachusetts (and the US) with the highest average property tax bills, creeping very close to – if not into – five figures.

The resulting increase is being noted by the Board of Assessors' as they are anticipating a jump in the number of applications for real estate abatements this coming year.

The main reason for the jump in tax bills while the rate has fallen is due to the rise in assessed values in the past three year, said Reardon. This fiscal year, the tax levy – all the money Belmont can raise through property taxes – stands at $72.1 million, up $2.2 million from $69.9 million in fiscal 2012 and $67.7 million in 2011.

The $2.2 million increase is based on the annual 2.5 percent limit cities and towns can raise taxes or $1.6 million and new growth around town of $720,000. 

Those figures correlates with a jump of $2.2 million in total assessed values to $5.406 billion in 2013 from $5.234 billion last fiscal year and $5.111 billion in 2011. 

"Belmont is a great place to live and has very good schools so our property values especially land values have increased," said Reardon to Belmont Patch after his presentation. 

Reardon noted that while multifamily property values have remained flat in the previous year, they are beginning to increase, and with that the likelihood of higher rental costs, suggested Board member Charles Laverty. 

The Board of Assessors' also requested the Selectmen approve a property tax rate with only one classification rather than a separate rate for residential and commercial property. 

Due to the overwhelming amount of residential property on the property tax rolls in this "Town of Homes" now reaching 94.3 percent, even if the town bumped up taxes on commercial and industrial property by a factor of 1.5 percent (the state limits that to a maximum 1.75 percent which is used in Boston and Cambridge), residential tax bills on a property assessed at $777,1000 would drop by $311 while businesses would see a increase of $5,175.

"And that change would not raise an extra dime for the town," noted Reardon.

While it appears attractive to do, it would put a burden on our small commercial base," said Reardon.

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