The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 18, 2002


Land assessments are up approximately 20% this year and tax bills, due to arrive on Monday, will reflect the steady rise in land values in Carlisle. For many homes in town, the land portion of property assessments is undervalued and does not reflect the current market value of properties, said Carlisle Principal Assessor John Speidel.

The new valuations will distribute the tax responsibility more evenly, said Speidel. While some newer homes are already assessed at close to the market value of their land, the majority of homes will see higher assessments on their bills because their land was undervalued.

Brand new Deck model home at 79 Highwoods Lane sits on 2.15 acres. This 4,582 square-foot custom colonial has 10 rooms, including 4 bedrooms and 3-1/2 bathrooms. The house is listed at $1,689,000 and assessed at $1,472,800. (Photo by Rik Pierce)

Smaller homes with land that is undervalued will see the highest percentage increase in property taxes compared to other homes, because land values have risen sharply and are high compared to the total value of the property. Also, says Carlisle Board of Assessors Chairman Jim Marchant, "There have been a number of tear-downs in town where the property was purchased for the land and the home was removed. The market value of the land without the house on it is worth more than the value of the land with the house."

According to state department of revenue guidelines, the goal is for property assessments to be within 10% of a home and land's market value. If the town doesn't meet the guidelines, the state may not certify the tax rate, says Marchant.

The board of assessors cites the current high price of lot sales in town as the basis for the increase, noting that two-acre lots start at around $400,000 with some as high as $569,000. Regarding home sales, Speidel says, "There's currently not a large volume of sales, but what is selling is selling high, more than what it's assessed at."
This 1,271 square-foot 1963 ranch, on 2.4 acres on Stearns Street, has 7 rooms, including 3 bedrooms and 1-1/2 baths. It was recently on the market for $499,000. The house was assessed for $319,000 in 2000 and has been reassessed this year for $362,100. (Photo by Rik Pierce)

The heavy demand for homes in Carlisle and the limited supply of properties, is affecting land values, says Marchant. The town's proximity to Routes 2, 3, 128, and 495 puts it within short commuting distance of many businesses. The rural appearance of the town, and the Carlisle School's good reputation and high MCAS scores have also contributed to the demand, driving prices up.

Interim adjustment

This year's tax bill (FY03) contains an interim year adjustment. Assessments were determined based on data from real estate sales in 2001. The last valuation in FY01 looked at data from 1999 home sales. While the state requires property revaluations every three years, the board of assessors believe land values in Carlisle have risen too fast to wait for the next valuation cycle.

Whether or not there will be another increase in land value assessments next year depends on the data from home sales this year. "Based on real estate sales in 2002, values still appear to be increasing over 2001. It's likely that land valuations will rise again next year," said Marchant.

How land is valued

With two-acre minimum building lots, the first two acres are assessed at market value. Residual land, or additional acreage, is assessed at approximately $5,000 per acre. The assessor's office has no plans to increase factors for additional acreage until at least the next year (FY04).

While assessments are generally higher this year, the tax rate is lower, down from $15.78 per $1,000 of valuation last year, to $15.05 per $1,000 this year. The tax rate has dropped since the town cannot collect more in taxes than is levied at the Spring Town Meeting. The total valuation of the town's 1,591 single family homes is $905,428,500, with the average assessed value of a home in Carlisle at $569,000.

Since starting as principal assessor in April, Speidel has visited 170 homes with recent building permits to update the valuations accordingly, if the improvements increased the home's market value. The board of assessors' goal is to see every house in town and take a digital photo of each property for town records, says Marchant.

According to Massachusetts Department of Revenue figures cited in a recent Boston Globe article, the average property tax bill in Carlisle last year (FY02) was $7,913, up 7.4% over the previous year. Carlisle has the highest taxes of the 33 towns in the Globe's NorthWest area, with Concord the next highest with an average tax bill last year of $6,633.

Tax bills are also impacted this year by the standard 2.5% increase allowed by Proposition 2-1/2, the operating budget override passed at Town Meeting, the Community Preservation Act (CPA) 2% surcharge, and by debt incurred from building projects and capital equipment purchases approved at earlier Town Meetings. "There is no commercial-industrial tax base in town to offset the spending incurred by the town," said Marchant.

A 2001 revaluation in Concord raised many residents' property taxes significantly last year. The Concord Assessors Study Group, formed to look into the methods for the valuation changes, recently reported to Concord Selectmen that assessors need to work on improving communication with homeowners.

Exemptions for some

Because the taxes in Carlisle are substantial, the town offers an exemption for seniors that allows up to $1,000 to be deducted from the tax bill. The 2% CPA surcharge can also be deducted for those who qualify based on economic guidelines.

Disabled veterans or people with a disability can also apply for a partial exemption from taxes. The town is reimbursed by the state for all exemptions, except the CPA.

One last resort measure for those who cannot pay the tax bill is the deferment plan. It allows residents to pay no tax, however a lien is placed on the property. When the home is sold, the owner must pay the town the back taxes, plus 14% interest per year.

The board of assessors is an elected board with members Jim Marchant, Chairman, Charles Ferraro, and Tom Dunkers. John Speidel, an employee of the town, is the Principal Assessor working at Town Hall.

If residents have a question about their assessment, they can contact the assessor's office at 978-369-0392.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito