STOCKBRIDGE — Residents, business owners and the town’s handful of industrial firms will continue to pay a single, uniform tax rate, slightly lower than last year’s.
That was the unanimous decision of the Select Board following the recent annual tax classification hearing led by Principal Assessor Michael Blay. The hearing is required by the state Department of Revenue, which certifies the town’s tax rate in November.
The average valuation for a single family home is $547,612, yielding an estimated average property tax bill of $5,405, Blay told The Eagle. That’s a slight increase from last year’s estimated average bill of $5,241.
Even though the tax rate will most likely decrease by 9 cents, the average bill for full-time residents and second-home owners could rise because of the increase in the total assessed value in the single-family category of properties in town, including condos, Blay said.
As in previous years, after hearing his presentation, the Select Board not only approved the single tax rate but also voted against granting a “residential exemption” as well as a commercial exemption for small-business owners.
The result is a $9.78 rate for the current fiscal year that began July 1, subject to state approval, a reduction from last year’s $9.87.
Residences account for nearly 90 percent of the overall tax base, Blay said. Commercial, industrial and personal property taxes make up the remaining amount.
The Board of Assessors does not recommend a split rate in the town because the nonresidential sectors account for only 10.5 percent of the total, he told the Select Board.
The residential exemption would apply to an estimated 600 eligible properties out of the town’s 1,695 total residential parcels, which include rentals, vacant land and mixed-use properties.
The total number of single-family homes is estimated at 1,252.
Eligible parcels are those owned by full-time, legal residents; second homes and rental properties would not qualify.
If the exemption were adopted, it would shift more of the tax burden to the majority of second-home owners and owners of rental property, Blay said.
Besides, the tax rate would have to increase for all residential properties, even those that received an exemption. This could possibly result in an increased tax bill for some, he said.
The properties owned by full-time residents could see a 20 percent reduction if the residential exemption were adopted, lowering their tax burden, he said.
Each eligible parcel would see a $98,700 reduction in the assessed value for taxation purposes.
The small commercial exemption would apply to businesses with an assessed property owner valuation of less than $1 million, employing no more than 10 people. According to the assessors, Stockbridge has only 10 or 11 eligible businesses qualifying for a 10 percent discount.
Selectman Patrick White recommended further study of a residential tax exemption for future years.
He cited possible spending increases that may be required for a potential Berkshire Hills Regional School District building replacement or renovation at Monument Mountain Regional High, as well as local bridge repairs, service area extension for town sewers, parks and recreation expenses and senior housing needs.
White cited a recent study identifying 40 percent of town residents as low or modest income.
After voting unanimously to maintain the single tax rate and rejecting the residential and commercial exemptions, the Select Board asked the assessors to conduct further research into the exemptions.