Lenox fends off businesses' push to end split tax rate

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LENOX — The town will continue to tax residential as well as commercial and industrial properties at two different rates.

The Select Board voted unanimously to maintain the split rate, lower for homeowners, higher for businesses, following the recent annual tax classification public hearing.

The median assessed valuation for a single-family home is currently $328,000, assessor Randall Austin told the board members, a nearly 5 percent increase over last year. The median value for commercial and industrial properties is $414,000, up slightly above 1 percent compared to last year.

However, the average assessed value for a single-family home is nearly $414,000, a more accurate reflection of the many higher-priced properties in town.

The average single-family homeowner's tax bill, currently at $4,996, has increased relatively slowly over the past four years, Austin noted. In 2016, it was $4,693, making the cumulative increase 6.5 percent.

Several other towns, notably Great Barrington, Stockbridge and Williamstown, have seen much steeper increases during the same period.

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If the Select Board had voted for a single tax rate applied to all residential, commercial and industrial properties, as advocated by some business proprietors, the typical Lenox homeowner would have seen a $180 tax bill increase for the year.

"It's been a bias toward stability in recent years, for better or worse," said Lee-Lenox Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen. Lenox adopted the split rate about 15 years ago.

Austin pointed out that Lenox is one of the only towns in the county to maintain a split tax rate.

For the current fiscal year, the residential tax rate is $12.09 per $1,000 of assessed value, up 14 cents from the previous year, an increase of 1.2 percent. The commercial rate is $14.78, up 1 cent compared to 2018-19.

The town is likely to see new commercial growth reflected in next year's assessments, said Thomas Romeo, chairman of the town's Board of Assessors. He cited the renovation and expansion at the Miraval Berkshires resort, formerly Cranwell, and the past weekend's opening of a new Carr Hardware store in the Center at Lenox shopping complex off Pittsfield Road (Route 7/20), replacing the old Price Chopper there.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.

This story has been modified to correct the increase in the commercial rate for the 2019-20 fiscal year.


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