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Increases in property tax continue in WMass

Date: 9/7/2010

Sept. 6, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

BOSTON -- Nobody welcomes their property tax bill, but some people in Western Massachusetts have more reason to be happy about it than others -- and those people live in Chicopee, where the average bill is $2,490.

Unless, of course, you live in Florida ($1,276), Rowe ($1,048), Monroe ($1,113) or Hancock ($824).

The Department of Revenue's Division of Local Services (DSL) has released its annual report on property taxes across the Commonwealth and overall property tax bills on average single-family homes rose in 2010 by 3.3 percent, the smallest percentage increase of any year in the past decade.

The report was written by Terry Williams of the DSL's Bureau of Accounts and James Paquette of the DLS's Bureau of Local Assessment.

They noted a property tax bill reflects both the tax rate set by a community and the assessed value of a property.

"Generally speaking, the average bill has recently increased at a slower pace, suggesting a few factors are at play, such as leaner budgets, reduced excess levy capacity and Proposition 2 - 1/2 override fatigue," they wrote.

"For most of the past decade, the average single-family tax rate steadily decreased, from a high of $14.73 per $1,000 in 1999 to a low of $9.74 per $1,000 in 2007. The rate changed direction in 2008, when it went up to $10 per $1,000. It has continued to increase since then to the current rate of $11.75 per $1,000, primarily as a result of decreasing valuations," they continued.

Although assessed values rose from 1994 to 2007, they fell during 2008 with the recession and the mortgage crash. This year, the average statewide value of single-family property showed a net decrease of 4.61 percent, according to the report.

"The good news is that the swings in our state have been much less volatile then in some areas of the country, where regional conditions have resulted in near collapse of housing prices," they wrote.

The slide in values has been more dramatic in the eastern part of the state, they explained.

"Generally speaking, values increased faster and went higher in the eastern counties. Then they dropped more quickly and steeply. In the western half, increases in value came later and have been more conservative," they wrote.

Chicopee's tax bill actually decreased from $2,518 last year, something of which no other community in the Reminder Publication's circulation area can boast.

Mayor Michael Bissonnette said his community's combination of "tax base, [pursuing] grants and frugality worked well for taxpayers."

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