By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The selectmen face a major decision tomorrow night when they consider how to tax local homes and businesses.
The town currently has two real estate tax rates: $13.92 per $1,000 of valuation for homes and $19.16 per $1,000 for businesses.
North Andover has had two tax rates for the last several years.
Last year, the selectmen voted to approve a shift of 1.31, which means that owners of commercial property pay 1.31 times what they would pay if the town taxed all property at the same rate.
Joseph Bevilacqua, president of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, has sent a letter to the North Andover members of his organization asking that they attend the tax classification hearing and request a lower rate for businesses.
“We need your help to ensure the industrial/commercial rate does not rise in 2013, but is in fact lowered,” Bevilacqua wrote.
“We are asking the selectmen to consider a lower rate,” Bevilacqua told The Eagle-Tribune. A lower tax rate for businesses, he said, will “encourage more growth.”
It’s the Board of Selectmen that has the final say on tax classification. So far, the selectmen are taking a wait-and-see approach on the question.
Selectmen Chairman William Gordon said Bevilacqua and the chamber’s arguments for a lower tax rate are “certainly something we will take into consideration.”
Gordon said he wants a “fair and equitable rate” for all of the town’s taxpayers.
“I”m not saying we’re going to raise it or lower it,” he said of the higher rate for commercial and industrial properties.
Selectman Richard Vaillancourt, a former president of the North Andover Merchants Association, said he wants to make sure that “businesses are treated fairly.”
He’s not ready, he said, to commit to a particular tax classification shift for the town.
“They do that all the time,” Selectman Donald Stewart said of the Chamber of Commerce’s appeal for a lower business rate.
Stewart said he would be willing to consider reducing businesses’ share of the real estate tax “a little at a time.”
“It’s always a touchy subject,” he pointed out.
Chief Assessor Garrett Boles said with the 1.31 shift, residential taxpayers contribute 82.34 percent of the town’s total real estate taxes.
If everyone were taxed at the same rate, the homeowners would pay 86.52 percent of the total taxes. The tax classification hearing will take place at 7:15 p.m. on the second floor of Town Hall.