CHESHIRE — Home and businesses owners received a September surprise this week in the form of a 77-cent cut in their tax rate.
Pending state Department of Revenue approval, the rate will drop from the current $13.06 per $1,000 assessed value to $12.29 in fiscal 2019. That's nearly a 6 percent reduction for the municipal budget year that began July 1, according to the Board of Assessors.
Board chairwoman Barbara Astorino delivered the good news to a stunned Select Board at their weekly meeting on Tuesday.
"Wow," said Select Board Chairwoman Carol Francesconi.
Selectman Robert Ciskowski added, "That will make people happy."
Astorino indicated that a lower rate doesn't necessarily translate into lower property tax bills for all in town.
"We're not sure of the tax [bill] impact, but it's not as great as if the rate were higher," she said.
Astorino noted that an expanding local tax base was key to lowering the tax rate. The town had $2.3 million in new growth last year, amounting to 22 percent of the town's $10.4 million-plus in assessed property value.
But the assessors had to adjust upward by 5 percent the overall residential property values for fiscal 2019, as Cheshire was a hotbed for home sales in 2017.
"We had a lot of sales, and [the prices] were high," Astorino said.
Taxpayers have a $6.1 million operating budget to pay for, which is approved at the annual town meeting in June. The fiscal 2019 spending measure, up 2.8 percent from fiscal 2018, includes the town's $2.79 million assessment paid to the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.
Despite the increase, Town Administrator Mark Webber said Cheshire has more of a tax cushion that in past years. The town is $90,000 under the tax levy limit compared to some years being as low as $10,000. Exceeding the limit would require an often unpopular request that voters override Proposition 2 1/2.
"We're in a very comfortable position right now," Webber said.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 413-496-6233.