EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 19, 2013

Taxes jumpfor all

Average home bill to jump by $117

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — The owner of the average home in the city will see its annual tax bill increase by $117 under a program approved by the City Council.

The owner of the average commercial business can expect a tax increase of $240, and the owner of the average industrial property will see a jump of $963, officials said.

The new annual bill for the average single-family home will be $3,961 and the bill for the average business property will be $15,434, City Assessor Stephen Gullo said.

Councilors adopted the program last night at Haverhill’s annual tax hearing.

The council voted 8-1 to set the tax factor at 1.5 — the same as it was last year and for several years running. A factor of 1.5 means businesses will continue to be taxed at a rate 50 percent higher than they would be if the rate was the same for business and residential property. State law allows for a difference in residential and business rates.

The council could have set the factor as high as 1.75 to give homeowners an even larger tax break at the expense of business owners.

Councilor William Ryan proposed setting the factor at 1.6, while Sven Amirian, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, urged councilors to drop the factor to 1.49 “to lessen the burden” on business owners.

“The shift is not fair and penalizes the businesses that contribute a lot to this city,” Amirian said.

Ryan said businesses should be taxed more because they can “write off these costs easier than homeowners can.”

“We’ve helped businesses over the years,’’ Ryan said. “Now it’s time to help homeowners.’’

Mayor James Fiorentini suggested raising the factor to 1.51, but said he was comfortable keeping it at 1.5.

Taxes are set to go up because the mayor and council increased the city budget last summer by the maximum 2.5 percent allowed by law.

But prior to last night’s vote, Fiorentini offered a surprise proposal to cut this year’s city budget by $200,000. The mayor said the spending cut would represent the first time the city has not raised taxes by the maximum 2.5 percent in at least 13 years. He aid the spending reduction would trim $10 off the increase to the average home’s annual tax bill, reducing the hike from $127 to $117.

To find the savings, the mayor proposed cutting the city’s capital account for building maintenance and new equipment and vehicles by $100,000 to $784,000. He said the other $100,000 would come from money put aside primarily for ice and snow removal.

The council passed Fiorentini’s proposal by a vote of 8-1, with Councilor John Michitson the lone opponent. Michitson, who has been a vocal advocate for better maintenance of public buildings, opposed reducing the capital budget.

Under the new tax program, homeowners will pay at a rate of $16.13 per thousand dollars of assessed value. The new commercial/industrial rate is $26.97. The former rates were $15.65 for homes and $26.24 for businesses.

The city will mail the next tax bills to property owners in January, Gullo said.