ADAMS -- Selectmen will vote tonight to decide fiscal year 2014 tax rates for local businesses and homeowners.
The annual tax classification hearing will be held at 7 p.m., at Town Hall.
Adams has chosen a split tax rate since 1991 -- meaning businesses and residents pay different property tax rates. Adams businesses have traditionally paid a higher property tax rate than the town’s residents, a "shift factor" of 1.15 since 2010. The 1.15 shift factor means 115 percent of what a single tax rate would be was the responsibility of businesses. The shift factor peaked at 1.35 in 2006.
The larger the shift factor, the higher the tax rate is for commercial properties and the lower it is for homeowners. However, the relative burden on commercial properties in Adams is less than in neigboring communities, such as North Adams, where the shift rate was 1.71 percent in fiscal year 2013.
Whatever shift rate the board decides on will be sent to the State Department of Revenue for approval.
Town Meeting members approved a 5 percent increase in the fiscal 2014 budget earlier this year. Revenues have not increased at the same rate as spending, however, resulting in a 9 percent increase in the tax levy from the current fiscal year.
The property tax levy accounts for 67.22 percent of the total budget in fiscal year 2014, the second-highest portion since 2006.
The average home in Adams is assessed at approximately $135,000, and approximately 80 percent of the property value in Adams is classified as residential.
If the board votes to maintain the shift rate at 1.15, the average homeowner would see his or her taxes increase from about $2,463 to $2,693 -- an increase of $230 from fiscal year 2013. Commercial properties would see an increase of $2.03 per $1,000 of assessed value.
If the board were to buck recent tradition and increase the relative tax rate on businesses, commercial property taxes could swell.
Adams had the highest residential tax rate of any municipality in Berkshire County for fiscal year 2013.
Board of Selectmen Chair John Duval said that he would make a decision on the shift rate when presented with all the facts Wednesday night.
"I’m not sure," Duval said. "We can shift it either way."
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