Property tax bills for the owners of most homes and businesses will be going down in Massachusetts’ third largest city. It’s the result of a set of circumstances that Springfield city officials would prefer to reverse. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports
The Springfield City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve 2013 property tax rates recommended by Mayor Domenic Sarno. City officials say 86 % of single family homeowners and a majority of business property owners should have lower tax bills than this year.
The residential tax rate was set at $19.71 and will translate to a $146 reduction in the tax bill for the average single family home. The commercial tax rate will be $38.98, almost a dollar lower than it is now.
Typically the city council spends hours wrangling over tax rates, but not this year, when Council President James Ferrera said they readily agreed to the mayor’s recommendations.
Tax bills are going down because Springfield has hit its levy ceiling under the state’s property tax cap law, and property values have plummeted. The city’s tax levy, the total it can collect, is $2 million less than this year, and the average value of a single family home is $6600 lower, according to the chairman of the City’s Board of Assessors, Richard Allen.
Springfield has seen little growth in the value of commercial real estate. The city is dotted with vacant industrial buildings and empty office space.
Springfield City Councilor Bud Williams said it may be a win-win today because tax bills for most homes and businesses will go down, but he warned that in the long run the city must get its property values to rise.
The business community continued to lobby, with little success, to close the gap between the property tax burden carried by commercial and residential property owners. Springfield Chamber of Commerce President Jeffrey Cuiffreda said businesses account for 27% of the city’s total real estate value, but pay 41 percent of the total tax.
This marks the earliest date the city of Springfield has managed to set its tax rates in almost 2 decades, according to City Councilor Timothy Rooke, chair of the council’s finance committee.
Selectmen in Amherst, voted to set new tax rates Monday night that will result in the average homeowner paying $211 more next year in property taxes.