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November 13, 2012

Council approves property tax hike

Average increase: $57 for homeowners, $953 for businesses

HAVERHILL — The owner of the average business property will see their taxes go up by $953 while the owner of the average home will see their bill increase by $57 under the tax program approved by City Council last night.

For commercial and industrial property owners, it’s the largest year-to-year increase in many years. For residential property owners, it’s one of the smallest annual increases since real estate values began plummeting six years ago.

The council set the tax rates by unanimously approving a classification factor of 1.50, which means businesses will continue to be 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.

The classification factor determines the split between what residential and commercial property owners pay. The idea behind the law is to allow communities to set separate rates for homes and businesses to give homeowners a break at the expense of business owners, who are considered by some to be more able to afford higher bills.

Prior to voting, Sven Amirian, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, lobbied for a 1.47 factor on behalf of businesses. That would have lowered the average commercial/industrial tax bill by $300, but raised the average residential tax bill by another $27.

“It’s a very difficult business climate right now,” said Amirian, a former city councilor. “Taking two or three points off (the factor) would be a sign that Haverhill cares about businesses and their needs. Even one or two percent would be symbol, a gesture.”

David Van Dam, Mayor James Fiorentini’s aide, told the council the mayor favors the 1.50 factor. But Van Dam said Fiorentini would go along with the council if it decided to lower the factor by a few points to give businesses a small break. A few years ago Fiorentini vetoed an attempt by the council to lower the factor for businesses.

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