STOCKBRIDGE — Despite appeals by Selectman Patrick White and resident John Hart for property tax relief for full-time residents with relatively modest homes, Stockbridge has declined to adopt a residential tax exemption that would lower the tax burden for less-affluent homeowners, while increasing bills for most others, especially seasonal residents.
White’s motion for a residential exemption was not seconded by either of the other two board members. But, the board voted unanimously to maintain a single tax rate for residential, commercial and industrial property owners. That vote allows the rate to decline, helping to stabilize bills for owners whose properties have soared in value since the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a countywide and local real estate boom.
Why it matters: The projected single residential and commercial tax rate for the fiscal year that began July 1 is $9.38 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a 40 cent decline from the 2021 fiscal year.
White argued that two types of Stockbridge residents were “distressed” and needed tax relief — first-time homebuyers and seniors on fixed incomes. He cited rising food prices and housing inflation.
Follow the money: Residential property represents 89.2 percent of the town’s tax base. Commercial taxpayers make up 5.5 percent of the total, personal property taxes are 4.7 percent, and the town’s small industrial sector is 0.5 percent.
• The total valuation of property in the town is $990 million, according to Principal Assessor Michael Blay. Residential property, made up of 1,695 residential parcels, including vacant land and multifamily homes, is valued at $883 million. There are 1,253 single-family homes and condos. The average residential parcel value is $521,000.
• About 600 homes and condos owned by year-round legal residents would have been eligible for the residential exemption, Blay said. Those owners could have excluded $104,000 of their property value from tax bills.
What’s the downside?: Adoption of the residential exemption would have boosted the overall tax rate to $10.10, a hefty increase over the previous year. That would raise tax bills for the majority of homeowners who did not qualify for the exemption.
• Blay pointed to a significant increase in residential values because of high sales volume and a significant run-up in prices last year, which is continuing.
What they’re saying: “It’s almost shocking,” Blay said. “I’ve been here since 1995 and I’ve never seen valuations change as much as they have in a one- to two-year period.”
• “I haven’t had anyone beating down my door in favor of the tax exemption,” Select Board Chairwoman Roxanne McCaffrey said.
The bottom line: No cities and towns in Berkshire County or elsewhere in Western Massachusetts have adopted a residential exemption, as it would shift the tax burden to second-home owners and owners who have rental properties but live elsewhere. Of 351 communities statewide, only 14 have passed residential exemptions, Finance Committee Chairman Jay Bikofsky noted.