NORTH ADAMS— The average tax bill for a city resident will increase by about $214 next fiscal year.
After Mayor Tom Bernard presented a proposal, the City Council voted Tuesday night to set the tax levy — the total amount of revenue the city can collect in property taxes — and the rate that business, homeowners, and other types of property tax payers would be charged next year.
There are two rates in the city. One is for residential and open space, set at $18.53 for next fiscal year, and the other is for commercial, industrial and personal property, set at $39.26 for the next fiscal year. Those rates are per $1,000 of assessed property value.
In the current fiscal year, the tax rate is $18.61 for residential and open space and $39.77 for commercial, industrial and personal property.
Though the rate for residential property will decrease, taxpayers will still see, on average, an increase in their bill because at the same time, the average residential home value increased over the past year, from $155,312 in the current year to $167,574 next fiscal year, according to information from the city.
The council voted 8 to 1 on Tuesday to pass the order setting the tax levy.
Councilor Marie Harpin was the sole no vote, saying in past similar votes, “each time I have voted no to put the extra burden on to the residential side.”
She noted that under the proposal, the residential rate drops by eight cents, while commercial rate drops by 51 cents. “That’s is a pretty significant number,” she said.
In comparing a businesses and homeowner with similar properties, businesses are still paying more in taxes because their rate is higher, Councilor Keith Bona said in response.
He wants to attract more small businesses to the city.
“Unfortunately we can’t have a separate tax rate for the business like Walmart,” he said. “So do we punish the small businesses because we have a couple large chains like that? It’s not attractive. When you look at our tax rates ... our commercial (rate) is one of the highest in the state.”
In the current fiscal year, the city has the third highest rate for commercial property, after Holyoke and Pittsfield, according to state data.
While the split is “logical,” Councilor Benjamin Lamb said, “I’m never excited to see us put more burden on our business community,”
He added, “We’re actually putting more burden on our commercial folks than the residential folks ... Taxes are generally always going to go up in some way (and) this is how it’s being offset.”
Greg Betti, who is a part-time assessor for the city and is a member of the Board of Assessors answered questions from City Councilors at the meeting, but he noted the city is currently without a full-time assessor.
Ross Vivori was the assessor until he left to work for Great Barrington in April.
“That position is open,” Bernard said. “We’ve put it out couple times. We have not found a suitable applicant or a suitable person to hire.” He added, “At this point that is a critical vacancy but this close it is one that I will leave in the hands of the mayor-elect.” An outside consultant has been helping with assessing work, Bernard said. When asked how much that cost, he said it did not exceed the cost of hiring a full-time assessor.
When asked why the last Board of Assessors public meeting agenda on the city website is from April, Betti said he and the other part-time assessor have been going into the office, but the board has not held public meetings because they are without a full-time assessor.