As Belmont’s ‘22 Property Tax Rate Rises By Pennies, Higher Assessments Will See Average Bill Increase

Photo: You’ll be paying more in taxes next year on your Belmont castle.

The Belmont Board of Assessors announced an increase of a couple of pennies to the fiscal year 2022 property tax rate from last fiscal year’s charge during its annual property classification tax rate presentation before the Select Board on Monday morning, Nov. 29.

“The Board of Assessors propose a tax rate of $11.56 per $1,000 of assessed value. That’s up two cents from last year,” said Charles Laverty III, the board’s vice chair stepping in Chair Robert Reardon who due to a scheduling conflict missed making the board’s presentation for the first time in nearly three decades.

Dan Dargon, the town’s assessing administrator who made the presentation, said the town’s total assessment has reached $9.001 billion with a total tax levy of $111.7 million, which includes $12.3 million in current total debt exclusions (for everything from the Beech Street Center to the new Middle and High school) resulting in the two cent increase to $11.56. Dargon noted that without the debt exclusions, Belmont’s tax rate would be $10.29 per $1,000.

New growth in the past year was higher than anticipated at $1,034,000 vs the estimated $840,000 as the Bradford apartment complex in Cushing Square was completed. [The town’s 2.5 percent increase and new growth are both added to the prior year’s levy limit to reach the current year’s levy limit.] But Dargon said it doesn’t appear the town will benefit from new large commercial growth for at least the next two years.

While it would appear the minimal rate increase would be a little bit of good news to rate payers, due to a modest four percent increase in appraised values over all classes of real estate – multi families and condominiums saw “stronger” jumps in value – homeowners will see their annual tax bill climb starting in January as the town increased the tax levy by the allowable 2.5 percent from $96 million to $99 million.

For example, on the average home in Belmont now valued at an eye-opening $1,346,700 (up from $1,326,300 last year), property owners will be handing over an additional $262 in fiscal 2022 with the total annual real estate bill now exceeding $15,000.

Last year, the average residential bill increased $706 when the rate rose by 56 cents per $1,000.

Dargon told the Select Board around 14 to 15 percent of all homes in town are inspected annually by his department for updating their value but all properties are revalued each year.

While the Assessors vote to approve the rate, the Select Board decides on two related issues: whether to implement a singular “split” rate for commercial and residential properties and to approve a residential exemption that would reduce the rate on owner-occupied properties at the expense of non-occupied residences.

As in past years, the assessors recommended and the selectmen agreed to a single tax classification and no real estate exemptions. With barely five percent of total property inventory commercial, Dargon said Belmont does not have anywhere near the amount of commercial and industrial space (Reardon has stated in multiple presentations that commercial property must at a minimum be at 30 percent to make a difference for residential rate payers) to creating separate tax rates for residential and commercial properties.

When asked by resident and Town Meeting Member (Pct. 3) Joseph Bernard asked if there was empirical evidence that municipalities which set a higher commercial tax rate reduced development or commercial activity, Dargon discussed his own experience as chief assessor for Framingham saying he witnessed the suppression of commercial activity as the then town had a high rate for business properties.

“In most lease agreements, taxes are passed on to the tenants. In the case where I was, they would often go to Natick which has a single rate,” he said.

As for residential exemptions, the administrative costs to run such a program would be prohibitive for a revenue neutral imitative. And as with the split rate, the majority of taxpayers would see little in reductions or increases in their tax bill, according to Dargon.

Because many homes in Belmont fall around the average price, a 10 percent exemption “doesn’t really benefit many people,” Dargon said. Adam Dash, the Select Board chair, noted that residential exemptions are popular in more densely populated urban municipalities such as Boston, Somerville and Cambridge with a very high percentage of absentee landlords.