LEE — Homeowners and business owners will pay a bit more in property taxes this fiscal year, despite the tax rate remaining unchanged.

An economy crippled by the coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding, municipal officials have managed to keep the real estate tax rate at $14.68 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

But, the price of an average single-family home for fiscal 2021, which began July 1, is up about $4,500, from nearly $252,000 in fiscal 2020 to $256,539. The higher value means that the owner of an average single-family house can expect a $3,766 tax bill, a $71 increase from fiscal 2020.  

The tax bill is close to the $3,756 payment in fiscal 2019, when the tax rate was $14.78. Despite the increase for the fiscal 2021 bill, the total remains one of the lowest five five years.

Board of Assessors member Dayton DeLorme says the rate is a victory for taxpayers.

"I think [Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen] and his financial team deserve a medal. I didn't expect to tell you the tax rate would be the same as last year," DeLorme told the Select Board at its regular Tuesday meeting.

"The current rate staying at $14.68 is amazing," board Chairman David Consolati said.

With local and state revenues down because of the COVID-19 pandemic and with $9 million less in new growth during the past 12 months, municipal officials had to create a lean budget for fiscal 2021, one that increased only 1.1 percent from fiscal 2020.

"We held the line on buying large items, such as police cruisers and other vehicles," Consolati said.

Ketchen says he budgeted "conservatively" about 50 percent of the first-year revenue from Canna Provisions, the town's lone retail recreational marijuana store.  By underestimating the nearly $1 million the town did receive, Ketchen says, he was able to pass along the savings to taxpayers.

The first of two property tax bills should be in the mail by Thanksgiving, according to DeLorme. The second payment is due May 1.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com.