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Belmont's New Property Tax Rate Pushes Half of All Homes' Yearly Bill Over $10K

Board of Assessors advise against a split residential/commercial property rate.

Just doing their job: Assessing Administrator Daniel Dargon, Jr., (left) and the Board of Assessors: Martin Millane, Charles Laverty III and Robert Reardon.
Just doing their job: Assessing Administrator Daniel Dargon, Jr., (left) and the Board of Assessors: Martin Millane, Charles Laverty III and Robert Reardon.
When Belmont Board of Selectmen Chair Mark Paolillo welcomed the Board of Assessors on their annual visit to announce their recommendations on the town's property rate, he noted the date they were meeting.

"How appropriate that today is Friday the 13th," said Paolillo. 

Not that it would come as a surprise that the three member board is recommending that Belmont's property tax rate should increase to $13.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value beginning Jan. 1. That is a 17 cent increase from the current $13.33.

The increase, which the Selectmen agreed to, breaches a significant physiological benchmark as next year the annual tax bill for more than half of all homes will be greater than $10,000 as the owner of a median-value property of $782,600 will receive a bill for $10,565.10.

The rate is based on the total assessed value of all property in Belmont for fiscal year 2014 of $5.481 billion (from $5,406 billion last year) that results in a tax levy of $73.981 million (up from $72.058 million). 

The tax levy's $1,923,953 increase is the result of the annual 2 1/2 percent bump – $1,628,618 – and new growth of $739,719.

The town's debt service – paying for Chenery Middle School, the Town Hall complex, new fire stations, the senior center and the Wellington school – declines by $251,421 to $4.4 million this year. That debt makes up nearly 6 percent of the levy. 

The assessors advised the selectmen not to create a separate tax rate for commercial property due in large part to the small amount of non-residential property in town; the total value of commercial, industrial and personal property only makes up just more than five percent of taxable valuation.

Reardon said that even if the town could tax non-residential property at the $20.25 per $1,000 maximum that is allowed by state law, it would only drop the residential property tax bill about 40 cents to $13.10.

"A split tax rate does not raise any more money and a lot of small commercial property owners are adversely impacted," said Reardon. A higher commercial rate would likely increase rents to small businesses and depress business-related fees. 

"If we had 20 percent commercial it would make sense (to have a split rate)," he said. 

While most residents will only see the end result of the process, Town Administrator David Kale said creating the rate took hundreds of hours of work between town officials and communications with the Department of Revenue to finalize the numbers.

"It's not just signing papers," he said.

"It was truly a team effort," said Reardon. 

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