EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 17, 2009

Methuen residents face bigger tax hike

State tells city to ease up on businesses

METHUEN — The state said Methuen put too much tax burden on businesses, and as a result residents are slated to pay even more of a tax increase — $40 more on average — than was expected.

The City Council approved new tax rates on Dec. 7, but Mayor William Manzi is now recommending that councilors approve tax rates of $12 per $1,000 of property valuation for residents and $22.18 per $1,000 of valuation for businesses. The council had approved a residential rate of $11.86 per $1,000 of valuation, and a commercial rate of $22.99 per $1,000 of valuation.

"I think that, depending which side of the fence you sit on, some people would say they like it," Manzi said. "I think most residential folks would say they don't."

This is happening because the state Department of Revenue said the city was going to place too much burden on businesses with the tax rates that were initially approved, so city officials have to increase the amount that residents will pay, municipal appraiser John Cena said.

"They saw that that factor could not be used because residential values have dropped significantly from the previous year and so Massachusetts state law prohibits you from unequally distributing the burden from the levy to all classes," Cena said.

While commercial property values dropped, they didn't drop as much as residential values dropped, Cena said.

"I don't think anybody realized the drop of commercial value would not affect the split that much," he said.

Robert Bliss, spokesman for the Department of Revenue, said "at least a handful of communities" have run into this problem.

If councilors approve the new tax rates, the average residential taxpayer with a home worth $281,335 will see their real estate tax bill increase by $128 for a total annual bill of $3,376, according to Cena.

Last fiscal year, the average home in the city was worth $300,473. Residents paid a tax rate of 10.81 per $1,000 of valuation and the average yearly bill was $3,248, according to City Auditor Thomas Kelly.

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