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.

Belmont’s FY’22 Property Tax Rate Jumps To $11.55 per $1,000 Driven By New School Borrowing

Photo: The second $100 million borrowing for the new Middle and High School has driven the property tax rate higher.

Belmont taxpayers will see their property tax rate increase by four bits and a nickel as the Board of Assessors recommended a rate for fiscal year 2022 during its annual presentation before the Select Board on Thursday morning, Dec. 10.

“This [coming fiscal] year the tax rate will be going up 55 cents … from $11 to $11.55,” Reardon told the board. According to the assessors, the impact on a residential property valued at $1,285,000 – what the average single family house in Belmont is worth – will be $706. The annual tax bill for that average house comes out to $14,842.

While property values calculated by the assessors cooled off from the past years of double digit increases – this year single families are up 3 percent (as opposed to 18 percent last year), condos 5 percent, two and three families increased by 4 percent and commercial property was flat – the biggest impact on property taxes is the second phase of borrowing for the Middle and High School project. The new $100 million borrowing added 56 cents to the tax bill, said Reardon.

As in past years, the assessors recommended and the selectmen agreed to a single tax classification and no real estate exemptions. Reardon said Belmont does not have anywhere near the amount of commercial and industrial space (at must be least a minimum of 30 percent, said Reardon) to creating separate tax rates for residential and commercial properties. Belmont’s commercial base is approximately four percent of the total real estate inventory.

As for 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.

The Board of Assessors will officially set the fiscal year ‘22 property tax rate on Friday, Dec. 11.

Letter To The Editor: Claims Belmont Overtax Property Below $1 Million ‘Untrue And Misleading’ – Assessors

Photo: The Assessors before the Select Board (from left) Martin Millane, Robert Reardon and Charles Laverty III

Dear Editor:

The Town of Belmont Board of Assessors has recently received information being circulated by a group calling themselves the “Citizens for a Fiscally Responsible Belmont” in which it is claimed that the Fiscal Year 2020 Assessments overtax properties under $1,000,000 in assessed value and under tax higher-end properties. The information used to make these claims is untrue and misleading and does not adhere to the actual assessment process which is regulated, reviewed, audited, and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue on an annual basis. The Board of Assessors has a long and exemplary record of fairly and equitably administering the Massachusetts General Laws to all taxpayers of Belmont.

Current assessments are historical which is a requirement of Massachusetts General Laws.  The Fiscal Year 2020 (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020) assessments are based on an effective date of 01/01/2019 based on sales information that occurred during the calendar year 2018. The effective date of assessment is based on the information on file in the assessing office based on inspections and reviews of every property in town.  Therefore, the fiscal year 2020 assessed values are as of Jan. 1, 2019, and are do not reflect the value of a property today.   

The report being circulated uses sales that have occurred in Calendar Years 2019 and 2020 compared against assessments that were based on 2018 sales.  The activity in these years is the basis for the upcoming assessments in the Fiscal Year 2021 (effective this upcoming January) and Fiscal Year 2022. Additionally, the sales in the report show no adjustment for changes in the Belmont Market and there are no adjustments for changes made to the properties after Jan. 1, 2019 (permits and renovations).  

The following table is from one of the many reports required and reviewed by the Department of Revenue to obtain certification.  


Fiscal Year 2020 Sales Ratios

Sale RangeSales RatioCODNumber
Q1$674,000 to $975,0000.951.8935 Sales
Q2$980,000 to $1,202,0000.951.4835 Sales
Q3 $1,206,000 to $1,512,5000.951.2735 Sales
Q4$1,515,000 to $5,500,0000.951.2434 Sales

The sales are segmented into four quartiles by sales price. The next column, sales ratio, is the assessed value divided by the sales price, which results in the assessment level. The Commonwealth requires that assessments are within 90 percent to 110 percent of sales. All four quartiles are at 95 percent which infers that than assessments are at 95 percent of market value in Fiscal Year 2020. The COD column is a further statistical test known as Coefficient of Dispersion which weighs, in short, the quality of the data set.  The Commonwealth requires that this be less the 10. The Belmont assessments are under 2.  The last column is the number of sales analyzed in each quartile. 

It is important to note that the Department of Revenue sets all guidelines and regulations for assessing in the Commonwealth. All communities are required to adhere to the same rules and procedures and Assessors are under oath to uphold these practices.    

A full version of the report above, as well as other reports used in the Certification Process, are available on the Belmont Board of Assessors’ website.

The Belmont Board of Assessors

Robert Reardon; chair, Charles Laverty III; vice-chair, Martin Millane; secretary.

Next Year’s Property Tax Rate Falls But Bill Continue Skyward As ‘Average’ Belmont Home Nears $1.1 Million

Photo: An “average” Belmont home that recently sold for $1.1 million (and it’s a ranch!)

Belmont Board of Selectmen Chair Adam Dash said that next fiscal year’s property tax rate approved by the board Thursday morning, Dec. 13 isn’t that onerous compared to charges imposed in other Massachusetts city and towns.

“It’s our housing values that are high,” said Dash, focusing on the annual dichotomy of where lower tax rates result in raising taxes for Belmont’s property owners after the Belmont Board of Assessors presented its analysis of Belmont real estate valuation during its annual tax classification hearing before the Selectmen.

Robert Reardon, long-time chair of the Board of Assessors, announced that Belmont’s fiscal ’19 property tax rate – which begins on July 1, 2019 – will be set at $11.67 per $1,000 assessed value, a reduction of nearly half-a-buck from the fiscal ’18 rate of $12.15.

But the average quarterly bill isn’t shrinking with the new tax rate as the total assessed value of property in Belmont shot up to $7.947 billion from $7.497 billion in fiscal ’18 as home buyers continue to clamor into the “Town of Homes.” 

The healthy increase in Belmont property values also pushed up the average residential home value to $1,090,000, a jump of a little more than 8 percent or $86,000 in 12 months. “Incredible,” said Selectman and lifelong Belmont resident Mark Paolillo upon hearing what the new “average” has become.

With home prices increasing at a steady clip, the annual tax bill in fiscal ’19 on an average assessed valued property ($1,090,000 x $11.67) will be $12,720.30, an increase of $525 from the $12,195.56  in fiscal ’18.

And the town is squeezing every last drop of taxes from the levy; by taking in $89.25 million, it is leaving only $4,003.08 of excess capacity “on the table,” said Reardon. 

When Selectman Tom Caputo asked how the new 7-12 school building on the site of Belmont High School will impact tax assessments, Town Treasurer Floyd Carman said the nearly $215 million debt exclusion will be phased in over three years beginning in fiscal 2020. The town is expected to borrow between $85 to $90 million in long-term borrowing in the first two years with taxes on an average home increasing by $680 each year. The final year will be short-term bonds in the $25 million to $30 million range.

“Think $1,800 plus” total increase on the average property in taxes by the start of fiscal 2022, “assuming we keep our [triple A] bond rating,” said Carman.

As in past years, the assessors’ recommended, and the selectmen agreed to a single tax classification and no real estate exemptions. Reardon – who is director of Cambridge’s Assessing Department – said Belmont does not have anywhere near the amount of commercial and industrial space (at must be least a minimum of 20 percent, said Reardon) to creating separate tax rates for residential and commercial properties. Belmont’s commercial base is 3.9 percent of the total real estate.

“Every year, the layperson ask us why we don’t increase the commercial rate, and the reason is that is such a small, small impact,” said Reardon. If Belmont increased commercial rates to the maximum limit under the law, those tax bills would jump on average by $6,350 while residential taxes would fall to $381, placing an unfair burden on commercial owners and their renters “and make Belmont a less desirable town.” 

“People always assume there’s more money if you go with the split rate when it really is just shifting the cost to the commercial side,” Reardon said.

Million Dollar Belmont: Average Assessment Hits 7 Figures As Tax Bill Jumps 4 Percent in ’18

Photo: Daniel Dargon, Robert Reardon and Charles Laverty III

There was a time in Belmont when the statement: “Your house looks like a million!” was metaphoric and not literal.

Not anymore, as the average assessed property in the “Town of Homes” had broken the seven-figure barrier, according to Board of Assessors when it announced the numbers during the annual tax classification hearing before the Belmont Board of Selectmen on Monday, Dec. 11.

The new “average” assessed value is $1,003,750, an increase from $942,000, according to Robert Reardon, long-time chair of the Board of Assessors, who announced that Belmont’s fiscal ’18 tax rate is set at $12.15 per $1,000 assessed value, a decrease of 4.25 percent from the fiscal ’17 rate of $12.69 per $1,000.

But don’t expect your quarterly bill to shrink in the coming year as the assessed value of property in Belmont shot up a healthy seven percent to $7.3 billion from $6.7 billion in fiscal ’17. With property values increasing at its highest percentage in more than five years, the average property owner will see their tax bill increase by 3.5 percent. 

For example, the annual tax bill on the average assessed valued property ($1,003,750 x $12.15) will be $12,195.56 in fiscal ’18; an increase of $241.58 from last year’s bill of $11,953.98.

Under the new rate, Belmont will collect $86.1 million from residential, commercial, open land and personal properties. Last fiscal year, the town raised $82 million in real estate taxes.

Reardon noted a “big” increase in new property growth totaling $2,020,408, compared to the $788,000 in fiscal ’17. On top of the existing Belmont tax base of $567,550, the Uplands development on the Cambridge border that selling units at a better than expected rate and new construction on the site is underway providing the town $600,750, nearly $200,000 more than anticipated. The completion of the electrical substation and its sale to Eversourse (the former NSTAR) brought in $852,108 in one-time funds to new growth. 

As with past years, the assessors’ recommended, and the selectmen agreed to a single tax classification for all properties and no real estate exemptions.

Reardon said Belmont does not have anywhere near the amount of commercial and industrial space – at a minimum 20 percent – to creating separate tax rates for residential and commercial properties. Belmont’s commercial base is 4.1 percent of the total real estate.

“People always assumes there’s money if you go with the split rate and that’s not true,” Reardon told the Belmontonian.

Smaller Real Estate Tax Bill Jump in ’17 as Property Values Cool

Photo: Belmont’s Assessors’ (from left) Charles R. Laverty, III, Robert P. Reardon, Martin B. Millane, Jr.

Real estate taxes on the average-valued home in Belmont will increase by the least amount in the past four years after the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved at its Monday, Dec. 19 meeting the recommendation of the town’s Board of Assessors’ to up the town’s property tax rate 14 cents in 2017.

The annual tax bill for the average assessed valued property – currently $941,700 – would increase by $311 to $11,960, less than half of last year’s hike of $717 under the new tax rate of $12.70 per $1,000 of assessed value. The current rate is $12.56 per $1,000.

Under the new rate, the annual tax for a property assessed at $750,000 will be $9,525, or $2,381.25 per quarterly tax bill.

The increase in the tax rate “is a result of a slight increase in real property values with an increase in the tax levy capacity,” wrote Assessors’ Chair Robert P. Reardon in the board’s yearly report to the Selectmen.

Reardon told the Belmontonian the town data showed a significant cooling in real estate values in Belmont this year. After increases of $55,300 ($782,600 to $847,900) from 2014 to 2015 and $79,500 between 2016-15 ($847,900 to $927,400), assessed values increased just $14,300 in 2017 compared to 2016.

After years of five percent increases in average assessed values, “[y]ou expect it to pull back, and it did this year,” said Reardon, who predicts home values will continue to level off in 2017 with two interest rate hikes anticipated by the Federal Reserve.

Under the new rate, Belmont will collect $85.6 million from residential, commercial, open land and personal properties. Last fiscal year, the town raised $82.9 million in real estate taxes.

Reardon noted a healthy increase in new property growth totaling $788,000 from the construction of the Belmont Uplands and the sale of prime properties on Woodland Road provided a “nice” bump into the town’s coffers.

As with past years, the assessors’ recommended, and the selectmen agreed to a single tax classification for all properties and no real estate exemptions.

Reardon said Belmont does not have anywhere near the amount of commercial and industrial space – at a minimum 20 percent – to creating separate tax rates for residential and commercial properties. Belmont’s commercial base is 4.24 percent of the total real estate.

“People always assumes there’s money if you go with the split rate and that’s not true,” Reardon told the Belmontonian.

Spike in Average Property Tax Bill Anticipated As Override Comes Dues

Photo: Board of Assessors’ (from left) Robert Reardon, Martin Millane, Jr. and Charles Laverty III

Belmont property owners can expect the equivalent of a lump of coal in their next two quarterly tax bill arriving in February 2016 as residents prepare to pay for the Prop 2 1/2 override voters passed in April.

The average household can expect to see its next two tax bills jump by $350, according to Robert Reardon, chair of the Belmont Board of Assessors which presented its recommendations for next fiscal year’s property tax rate to the Belmont Board of Selectmen at its Monday, Dec. 14 meeting.

While the assessors are recommending a significant drop in the tax rate – $12.56 per $1,000 in fiscal 2016, down from $12.90 in fiscal ’15 – any possible dip in taxes was offset by a dramatic increase of 11 percent in assessed values of all property town-wide, from $5.928 billion in 2015 to 2016’s $6.598 billion.

Approximately $4.5 million of the $6.9 million spike in assessed values comes from the Proposition 2 1/2 override that passed comfortably by voters at this year’s Town Election to stabilize school finances.

In comparison, assessed values rose in fiscal year 2015 by $2.3 million and by $1.9 million in fiscal ’14.

The value of an “average,” or median priced Belmont house has rocketed to $928,003 from $847,900 in fiscal 2015

For the “average” Belmont home, taxes next fiscal year will be $11,655, an increase of $717.45 from the $10,938. 

In comparison, property taxes increased $373 between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015.

Reardon said after the new fiscal year begins on July 1, 2016, the increase will be spread over four quarters, and the average customer’s bill will be about $180 higher.

Suspecting many Belmont residents would “notice” the large change in their tax bill, Reardon said the Assessors’ Office would include in the next two bills a two-page “explanation to the taxpayers on why the levy was increased and the approximate increase can is the result of the change.”

“Just so they have a better understanding and cut down the number of questions they may have,“ said Reardon, who was accompanied to the meeting by his colleagues, Martin Millane, Jr. and Charles Laverty III

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has a handy primer on calculating the tax levy.

As with past years, the assessors recommended, and the selectmen agreed to a single tax classification for all properties and no real estate exemptions.

Reardon said Belmont does not have anywhere near the amount of commercial and industrial space – at a minimum 20 percent – to creating separate tax rates for residential and commercial properties.

“We are not raising more money by having a commercial rate, we are only shifting it” onto businesses while the savings for residential ratepayers would be “negotiable,” said Reardon.

“One of the dilemmas is because our residential property values are so high, I think it artificially drives up a lot of our commercial properties,” said Baghdady.

“Commercial rents to justify the value is tough to absorb by a business,” said Baghdady.

Belmont Property Tax Rate Falls but the Average Bill Continues to Rise

The good news: The Belmont Board of Selectmen has cut the property tax rate in fiscal 2015 by nearly five percent.

The bad news: Your residential tax bill will in all likelihood be higher in the coming fiscal year.

That’s the analysis from the Board of Assessors which presented its recommendations to the Selectmen on Monday, Dec. 1.

The board’s recommendation, which the Selectmen approved unanimously, was that the fiscal 2015 tax rate to be set at $12.90 per $1,000 of the assessed value of the property. That is a 60 cent cut from last fiscal year’s rate of $13.50.

While normally a cut in a rate would be good news, it comes as the assessed value of Belmont properties increased by just under $500 million to $5.9 billion. That increase can be seen in the value of an “average,” or median, Belmont house which exploded to $847,900 from $782,600 last year.

For the “average” Belmont home, taxes next fiscal year will be $10,938, up $373 from last year’s average of $10,565.

“The decrease in the rate is a result of the increase in real property values with an increase in the tax levy capacity,” said Assessors Chairman Robert Reardon, who was accompanied to the meeting by his colleagues, Martin Millane, Jr. and Charles Laverty III.

For more information on just what is and how the tax levy is calculated, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue has a handy primer explaining the concept.

With the vote, Belmont will see an increase in property taxes in the coming fiscal year of $2.3 million (compared to $1.9 million last year) from a total amount collected of $76.6 million. That amount is the sum of the annual 2.5 percent increase allowed under state law and $654,000 in “new growth” which includes properties that have increased in assessed valuation since the prior year because of development or other changes and any new subdivisions and condo conversions.

As with past years, the assessors recommended and the selectmen agreed to a single tax classification for all properties and no real estate exemptions.

Reardon said Belmont does not have anywhere near the amount of commercial and industrial space needed to support separating the classes with their own tax rate.

“We are not raising more money by having a commercial rate, we are only shifting it” onto businesses while the savings for residential rate payers would be “negotiable,” said Reardon.

Under a senario where the commercial rate would be maximized by a factor of 1.5, residential tax payers would see their rate drop by 39 cents to $12.51/$1,000 of assessed value for an “average” savings of $330 per year while commercial rates would increase to $19.35/$1,000 to see an average increase of nearly $5,500 from last year.

“Every board strives to increase our commercial base … we really want to incentive them and you don’t do that by increasing the tax rate,” said Selectmen Chair Andy Rojas.