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Selectmen opt for single tax rate for 2009

Date: 11/10/2008

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM The Board of Selectmen have once again opted to maintain a single tax rate for the different types of property in town.

Manny Silva, the town's principal assessor, presented three different options for the selectmen to choose from: the minimum residential factor, residential exemption or small commercial exemption.

The first option, the minimum residential factor, is what the Board of Selectmen chose. Every property in town, be it residential, commercial, industrial or personal, would share the same tax rate, $15.28 for every $1,000 of full and fair cash valuation for 2009.

This is a 38 cent increase over last year's rate of $14.90, about a two and a half percent increase, which is considered a normal annual growth.

If the residential exemption option had been chosen, the residential tax rate would have been $18.72. The small commercial exemption option would not have affected residential rates, and would benefit only commercial parcels with valuations less than $1 million and no more than 10 employees. Silva noted that this option would also only benefit the owner of a piece of commercial property, not necessarily the business that occupied it.

Resident John Broderick told the selectmen that 12 towns in Massachusetts have switched to a split rate since 2003, and nearly one-third of all towns in the Commonwealth employ the split rate option.

"Those with split rates have more commercial property," Silva stated. He noted that locally, Agawam, Chicopee, Holyoke and Springfield use a split rate structure. Wilbraham is 90 percent residential.

Terry Nelson, a member of the Hampden/Wilbraham Chamber of Commerce, said that the group was in favor of maintaining the single rate. "It's business-friendly to keep it single," he said.

He added that an American Farmland Trust study found that for every dollar in taxes that residents pay, they receive $1.15 worth of services. For every dollar businesses pay, only 27 cents are used for services.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the single tax rate for Fiscal Year 2009.