Photo: Assessors Charles Laverty III and Bob Reardon with Assessing Administrator Dan Dargon before the Select Board during the annual property tax rate hearing, Monday, Dec. 4
In what could be the final time an elected Belmont Board of Assessors makes the presentation, the three-member board announced a drop in the fiscal year 2024 property tax rate during its annual property classification tax rate hearing before the Select Board on Monday, Dec. 4.
“The tax rate that’s going to be proposed by the Board of Assessors will be a decrease from a rate [of] $11.24 [per $1,000 of assessed value] for this year, down to $10.57 for fiscal year ’24,” Bob Reardon, the long-time Assessor’s chair, told the Select Board.
While it may initially sound like a windfall for homeowners, members from both boards told property owners not to expect a drop in their bills in the new year. Reardon said the vast majority of the decline of 67 cents was due to the increase in the value of all properties over the past year.
“Just because the tax rates are coming down doesn’t necessarily lead to people paying less,” said Reardon. “The tax rate is simply computed by the amount being raised divided by the total assessed value.”
“I think people hear, ‘Oh, the rates have gone down, great,'” said Select Board Vice Chair Elizabeth Dionne. “No, that is not what it means. This just means your [home’s] value is higher.”
Values for all Belmont property classifications increased in the past year. The town’s total residential and personal property assessment is $11.3 billion, up from $9.0 billion in fiscal year ’23.
The actual tax levy – how much the town can raise after increasing real estate by the maximum annual 2.5 percent – to be raised in fiscal year ’24 is $119.5 million, of which $106.3 million comes from the total levy for residential and commercial property. An additional $13.1 million comes from eight debt exclusions for everything from the construction of the Beech Street Center to the new Middle/High school. The debt exclusions for the new rink and library will be included in the calculation for the fiscal year 2025. According to Reardon, new growth collected in the past year “remains strong,” raising $876,069.
Despite higher-than-average mortgage rates, during which property values “usually take a dip,” Reardon told the board that due to a lack of inventory of houses for sale, the average single-family home in Belmont jumped to $1,615,200, an increase of more than 10 percent from $1,436,500 in fiscal year 2023.
With its presentation on Monday, the Board of Assessors will face a Special Town Meeting in the next two months, where members will be asked to change the board from its current elected members to an appointed board. Similar to the recent change of the town Treasurer from an elected to an appointed position, the Town Meeting would follow a recommendation of the Collins Center Report.
As in past years, the assessors recommended, and the Select Board agreed to a single tax classification and not to enact real estate exemptions. With barely five percent of Belmont’s property base commercial, Reardon reiterated past statements that commercial property must reach 30 percent to make a split rate effective and not deter businesses from staying or coming to Belmont.
While voting to approve the Assessors’ rate recommendation, 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 for residential exemptions, the administrative costs to run such a program would be prohibitive for a revenue-neutral initiative. As with the split rate, two-thirds of rate payers would see little reductions or increases in their tax bill.