Local Government and Politics, News

Swampscott treasurer talks taxes

The funding for the study, which is projected to take three to six months, was approved by Town Meeting in May. (Item File Photo)

SWAMPSCOTT — The average single-family homeowner could be looking at a $51 decrease on their tax bills next year.

Three weeks ahead of the Tax Classification Hearing, Ron Mendes, town treasurer and assistant town administrator, put forth three motions for the Board of Selectmen to vote on, along with his recommendations at Wednesday night’s meeting.

Mendes recommended the board adopt a Commercial, Industrial, and Personal Property (CIP) tax shift of 170 percent, which would give the average single-family taxpayer a residential tax bill of $9,022, compared to last year’s average of $9,073.

“If we shift to 170 percent, the residential tax rate will be the lowest in 10 years,” said Mendes.

With that shift, the average single-family taxpayer would pay $15.20 per $1,000 home value assessment, according to Mendes. He said if the board moves forward with that recommendation, it would be the lowest residential tax rate since the average $14.34 in 2009.

His second recommendation was for the board to reject a residential exemption, which would exempt up to 35 percent of owner-occupied residential properties. If adopted, he said the residential exemption would be paid for by shifting a higher tax burden on non-owner occupied and higher-valued residential properties.

Mendes’ last recommendation was to adopt a small commercial exemption of 10 percent of the value of qualifying parcels. To qualify for that exemption, commercial properties must have an annual employment of fewer than 10 employees and an assessed property value of less than $1 million, according to Mendes.

Mendes said the commercial exemption works by increasing taxes on all of the other commercial properties. Businesses that qualify for the exemption would only pay 90 percent of their taxes, with other commercial properties picking up the rest of the tab.

At the end of the presentation, equipped with more than 50 pages of data from last fiscal year to the upcoming fiscal year, Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said the town’s taxes are a “little bit too high,” and Board of Selectmen Chairman Peter Spellios told Fitzgerald that was a “little bit of an understatement.”

“How do we find a balance between investments and what the residents of Swampscott can afford?” asked Fitzgerald.

Spellios announced a new tax guideline that the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee passed last Monday. He said the guideline would have a recommendation of a 2 percent tax levy, plus new growth, a recommendation that new growth be estimated at $425,000, and to eliminate the use of free cash to balance the operating budget.

“We can’t just assume new growth, we need to plan for it,” said Spellios. “The problem with free cash is it’s a one-time revenue source to offset tax levy. The less free cash we use, the better.”

The Board of Selectmen will vote on the Tax Classification Hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

 

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