Friday, October 14, 2005
Selectmen look at tax rates and relief
The new Carlisle tax rate is expected to be $12.99 if the state approves the recap sheet, Treasurer/Tax Collector Larry Barton announced at the Board of Selectmen's October 11 meeting. The new rate is about 3% higher than the previous rate of $12.62 / $1,000 in property valuation.
Barton is concerned over the effect of Carlisle's taxes on the town's seniors and he proposed a new solution. Carlisle presently has the Aid to Elderly and Disabled Fund and the Senior Tax Voucher Program, but Barton believes that more aggressive relief is needed. "Why can't we have a discount tax rate for seniors?" he asked the Selectmen. "Let's assume that we can break residential into two classes with one being for property held by long-term senior homeowners who meet a means test."
"As an example," Barton explained, "let's say there are 15 senior homeowners, each with an assessed value of $550,000, and we wish to establish a tax rate for those properties equivalent to 50% of the regular rate. Using the rate of $12.99, he showed that each of the homeowners would normally pay real estate taxes in the amount of $7,144.50. If the 15 seniors were taxed at 50%, the tax rate would rise by only four cents to $13.03 to make up the difference. The impact on the average tax bill of the remaining houses would be an additional $63.73. "At the modified tax rate, each of the 15 seniors would pay real estate taxes of $3,584.25, a savings of $3,360.25," said Barton.
Barton preferred the reduced tax rate over a lowered assessment to alleviate any misunderstanding if the property is sold. Though he proposed 50%, "It could be 60%, 70%...." Barton asked that members of the board take the initiative if such a plan is to be adopted. Since state tax regulations are involved, a home rule petition or some initiative at the state level is required. Selectmen agreed that this will take time and effort, but it might be a way to stave off the departure of long-term senior residents if there is enough support from the taxpayers.
Tax classification hearing
Principal Assessor John Speidel attended the October 11 Board of Selectmen meeting to raise the annual question of whether commercial/industrial property in Carlisle should be taxed at a higher rate than residential. Commercial/industrial property can be taxed up to 1.75 times the residential rate and it is an ongoing temptation for revenue-starved cities and towns. However, Carlisle's commercial/industrial property represents less than 1% of the total town tax base and Speidel is concerned over alienating the few essential businesses that do exist and possibly forcing them out of town. In the end, common sense prevailed and the Selectmen voted 5-0 to once again keep the same factor of one for residential and commercial/industrial.
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