HAVERHILL — The city’s annual meeting to inform property owners how much their taxes are going up has been described as an exercise in pitting businesses against homeowners.
This year’s tax classification hearing, set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, promises more division than ever.
Commercial and industrial property owners face one of the largest year-to-year tax increases in recent history, while residential owners — people who own single-family homes, apartment buildings and condominiums — are looking at one of the smallest hikes since home values began plummeting six years ago.
Haverhill has historically taxed businesses at the highest rates allowed by law, in order to give homeowners the largest break possible on their tax bills. If City Council follows that course and approves the tax program recommended by Mayor James Fiorentini, the owner of the average commercial/industrial property will see their annual tax bill increase by $953 to $15,200. That’s more than twice as much as those taxes went up last year when they rose $427.
Meanwhile, the owner of the average residential property, which includes single-family homes, apartment buildings and condominiums, would see their bill increase by $57 to $3,268 under the proposed tax program. This increase is much less than last year’s $130 hike.
City Assessor Stephen Gullo said the reason for the discrepancy is that commercial and industrial properties held their value much better than residential properties.
Gullo also noted the average business property value of $579,053 is inflated by the inclusion of large businesses such as BJ’s and Target. Most businesses, he said, are smaller and have smaller values. Therefore, he said, those smaller businesses will see increases that are less than the average $953 hike.
The classification factor determines the split between what residential and commercial property owners pay. The current 1.50 classification factor means businesses are taxed at a rate 50 percent higher than they would be if the rate was the same for all types of property — both homes and businesses.