Select Board approves single tax rate for upcoming fiscal year

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW – The Select Board voted to maintain a single tax rate at its Dec. 16 meeting.

Technically defined as a tax factor of 1, the move provides a uniform tax rate for all classes of property in town. That single tax rate for fiscal year 2020 (FY20) will be $24.21 per $1,000 of assessed value, a $0.12 – or 0.5 percent – increase over FY19.

The Select Board voted 4-1 in favor of the single rate. Select Board Chair Mark Gold, the lone dissenting vote, expressed concern that residential values and commercial values are not increasing at similar rates and stated he remains partial to a split tax rate to reduce the burden on residential taxpayers.

Principal Assessor Jessica Guerra explained that a 1 percent shift with a split tax rate would result in a $0.24 increase in commercial, industrial and personal property tax rate and a $0.01 decrease in the residential rate. The average assessed residential tax rate would have been $7.48 lower, Meanwhile, the average commercial bill would have been $680 higher, industrial would have been 107 higher and personal property, $163.

“Splitting the tax rate does not change the amount that needs to be raised. I just want to make that point clear,” Guerra said. “No matter what, we need to raise the same amount whether you shift it one way or another way.”

Guerra told the board it was a “good year for new growth” at nearly $15 million– 59 percent higher than the three-year average of $9.4 million. Personal property contributed nearly $8 million to the new growth figure, followed by commercial and industrial property at $4.4 million and residential at $2.6 million.

“That’s up 158.9 percent from [FY19],” Guerra said of the personal property growth, adding it was the town’s first year inspecting personal property since FY14, in accordance with state requirements that state such inspections must take place every five years. She also noted the values include the District Improvement Financing project on Dwight Road at 100 percent complete, nearly doubling its value.

Longmeadow’s total taxable value in FY20 was reported at $2.3 billion, an increase of $69.2 million or 3.2 percent. Residential valuation increased 2.8 percent from FY19 to FY20 at $2.1 billion – $58.5 million more than the previous year. Personal property increased to $48.2 million, a 13.4 percent jump from the previous fiscal year. Total commercial values went from $79.7 million to $84.7 million, a 6.3 percent increase while industrial  – primarily telephone utilities and the like – stayed relatively flat, dropping $2,200 in value at $4 million.

The actual FY20 property tax levy was calculated a $54.5 million, which includes $4.9 million in debt exclusions.

Finance Director Paul Pasterczyk said that levy met the Select Board’s goal of keeping the levy increase below the full 2.5 percent.