PITTSFIELD -- A typical home and business property owner in Pittsfield can expect a smaller increase in their tax bills for the second fiscal year in a row.

The City Council still has to approve the tax rate, but the Board of Assessors has proposed increasing the residential property tax to $16.48 on every $1,000 of assessed property value. The existing rate is $16.11.

The owner of an average, single-family home assessed at $177,000 would see an increase of $65 -- from $2,861 to $2,926 -- in their annual tax bill.

The assessors also propose upping the commercial property tax rate -- from $32.85 to $35.30. Therefore, a business owner with property valued at $511,000 (the citywide average) would see annual tax bills go from $17,772 to $18,027, a total of $255.

The City Council is expected to vote on the proposed tax rates at tonight's regular meeting at 7:30 at City Hall.

If approved, the new tax rates would cover the current fiscal year --- from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2011. The assessors say the tax increases, when combined with other revenues, will fully fund the city's $133.1 million budget.

The tax hikes are lower than what property owners got hit with in the previous two years. The typical residential increase was $132 and $66 in fiscal 2011 and 2012 respectively, while the commercial bill had jumped $820 and $409 on average.

City financial officials cite an improved cash flow for minimizing the impact of rising tax rates.

"Our stated aid is up $1.


Advertisement

6 million compared to [fiscal] 2012," said Pittsfield Finance Director and Treasurer Susan Carmel. "We're also using $1.7 million in free cash compared to $1 million last year."

In June, the City Council approved Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi's request to apply $1.7 in surplus funds toward lowering the increase in the property tax rates.

A increase in the city's tax base also helped spread the tax burden, according to Paula King, chairwoman of the Board of Assessors.

"The $48 million in new growth is a little bit more than we expected," she said. "It will generate $1.4 million in new taxes."

Among the notable projects, King said, were the Rice Silk Mill Apartments, Mountain One Financial in the William Stanley Business Park and the first full-year assessment of BJ's Wholesale Club.

Nevertheless, lower property values -- especially on the commercial side -- and a city spending plan that increased by nearly $4 million, necessitated a higher tax rate to raise $68.6 million in revenue toward the budget, according to city financial officials. Pittsfield relied on $66.3 million in property taxes to fund the fiscal 2012 spending plan of $129.3 million.

Meanwhile, city officials propose shifting more of the tax burden to commercial property owners for the first time in five fiscal years.

The City Council is being asked to approve a tax shift of 1.72 for fiscal 2013, the highest since the maximum of 1.75 was imposed in fiscal 2008. The rate had gradually fallen each fiscal year to 1.666 in fiscal 2012 in order to help the business community grow.

Bianchi says the shift is intended to fairly balance the tax burden

"It's a modest adjustment for commercial and residential owners to minimize the tax impact for both," he said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.

Inside the numbers ...

The Pittsfield City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on the proposed property tax rate to fund the city budget. These are new rates for the current fiscal year (2013) as compared with last fiscal year's rate.

Fiscal ‘12 Fiscal ‘13 Change

Residential (per $1,000)

$16.11 $16.48 +$0.37

Avg. annual bill

$2,860.81 $2,926.07* +$65.26

* Based on single-family home valued at $177,553

Commercial (per $1,000)

$32.85 $35.30 +$2.45

Avg. annual bill

$17,772.61 $18,027.29** +$254.68

** Based on commercial property valued at $510,688.

Source: Pittsfield Board of Assessors