Thursday October 25, 2012

LEE -- Home and business owners are facing the highest property tax rate in eight years, triggered by another drop in residential property values and increased town spending for the current fiscal year.

If approved by the state, the Board of Assessors’ proposed tax rate of $14.09 per $1,000 assessed value for fiscal 2013 would nearly match the $14.12 figure in fiscal 2008, according to town officials.

Once the state Department of Revenue endorses the new rate, the board expects the property tax bills to be mailed out by the first week in November. The property tax is split into two payments, with the first half due in early December and the rest by May 1.

The proposed new rate is a 42-cent increase above the $13.67 per $1,000 rate in fiscal 2012. The net result is that the average real estate bill for a single-family home owner will be $3,465, up $95 from $3,370 the previous fiscal year.

Board of Assessors Chairman Dayton DeLorme says he is concerned, but not surprised, by the tax hike.

"Obviously that’s a reflection of the housing market," DeLorme said. "Sales were down almost across the board in town."

The sluggish real estate market contributed to lower residential property values, which are based, in part, on the sales of new and existing homes from the previous calendar year.

The average assessed value of a single-family home in Lee stands at $245,947 for fiscal 2013, compared $246,539 for fiscal 2012.


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While the $592 is a far cry from the $8,150 drop last year, it still necessitating the tax rate hike, despite better-than-expected $12.5 million in new growth, according to Town Administrator Robert Nason.

"The bottom line is property values were still down," Nason said.

DeLorme also noted the town budget breaking the $20 million mark also contributed to the proposed tax hike.

The fiscal year increase will raise nearly $12.38 million in property taxes to help fund the $20.2 million municipal budget through June 30, 2013. In fiscal 2012, $13.03 million in taxation was needed toward funding a $19.8 million spending plan.

Based on fiscal 2011-12 data from state revenue officials, Lee’s average single-family home annual tax bills still ranks 10th among the 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County.

Williamstown remains a top the list at $5,262, while Han cock has the lowest tax bill at $759.