Friday, September 20, 2002
Taxes back on selectmen's agenda
The feasibility of shifting more of the tax burden to commercial properties was explored at the September 10 Carlisle Board of Selectmen meeting, but the final decision was to keep the residential and commercial tax rates the same.
Principal assessor John Speidel explained that residential property and open space make up 98.3% of the taxable property value in town, while the combined class of commercial, industrial and personal property (CIP) contribute only 1.7%. He distributed calculations which showed that raising the commercial tax rate by 25% would reduce Carlisle's residential tax rate by about four-tenths of one percent. Speidel therefore advised against trying to shift more of the tax burden to the commercial properties. He thought it made sense in communities where at least 20% of the properties were zoned commercial or industrial.
Property assessments revised as land values rise
State law requires towns to reassess real estate at least every three years, to bring valuation in line with the current real estate market. Towns may reassess property more frequently. This year Carlisle has reassessed land values, which will raise the total valuation of the town by just under 10%. A larger reassessment is expected next year.
After the reassessment, the town will still raise the same amount of money authorized by voters last spring, because the tax rate will be lowered. However, since each property is unique, some homeowners will experience a larger increase in their tax bill than others. Selectman John Ballantine thought that owners of many modest homes might experience a jump in taxes, since the rising value of the land is large compared to those of house values.
Deb Belanger said that because last spring's first override vote failed, "We know we have residents who are tax-sensitive." She suggested forming a subcommittee to research tax relief for those who may have difficulty with the higher taxes. Selectman Carol Peters said that this was one of the board's long-term goals.
After the meeting, principal assessor John Speidel explained that many substantial homes also had undervalued land, and would experience higher taxes, though most of the homes in the newer subdivisions were already assessed at market value. About three-quarters of the town's house lots were valued near $200,000, far below market prices. According to Speidel, lot prices have risen over 30% in the last four years.
The new tax rate will be known once the state department of revenue signs off on the paperwork. Tax bills are expected to be mailed in October, and residents will then have 30 days to file an abatement request, if they disagree with their bill.
Fincom predicts another lean year ahead
Larry Barton, chairman of the Carlisle Finance Committee, discussed his committee's budget model at the September 10 board of selectmen's meeting. Using estimates based on recent trends in town revenues and expenses, the model can show the impact of these trends on future taxes. Barton predicted of fiscal '04, "This is going to be a difficult year, again." This is despite the fact that Carlisle's assessment ratio for the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) is expected to drop from 0.2932 in FY03 to 0.2875 in FY04, requiring Carlisle to shoulder a smaller portion of the high school budget. Reasons Barton gave included: potentially slower growth from new housing construction; level or reduced state aid; and town departments seeking to recover what they lost in last year's budget process.
The FinCom model showed a 3:1 relationship between budgets of the schools (Carlisle Public School, Minuteman Technical School and CCHS) and other town departments. Assuming a baseline where all departments receive a 2.5% increase, then for every additional 1% increase needed for the schools, the town must reduce non-school departments by about 3% in order to maintain a balanced budget. Selectman John Ballantine pointed out that enrollment increases tend to drive the school budget up faster than normal cost-of-living increases. He also thought that the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee's budget would rise at least 5%, due to the rising costs of services and contractual obligations.
The Carlisle selectmen and FinCom will meet with their Concord counterparts on Thursday, September 19, to discuss the high school FY04 budget.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito