HAVERHILL — The city's new "Haverhillspeaks.org" website is giving the public a chance to comment on issues such as tax rates for the coming year, which will be discussed at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
To participate, residents can go to the website, click on "Tax Classification Hearing for FY2020" and then "New Tax Classification FY2021." That will show information on tax options available to the City Council and their impact on bills for residents and businesses.
The site also allows viewers to leave comments for city councilors to consider as they prepare to set the tax rates.
On Tuesday night, the council will have its annual tax hearing, which considers public comment, followed by a vote to set the new tax rates. The hearing is at 7 p.m. in City Hall.
Haverhill uses the state's tax classification law when setting the rates. That law allows communities to gives homeowners a break by setting a residential rate that is lower than the rate charged to businesses. A tax rate is the amount of money a property owner pays per $1,000 worth of property.
If the council adopts a tax program like last year's, with the same ratio between the residential and business rates, the owner of the average single-family house will see their annual bill increase by $110 to $4,808, according to information provided by city officials.
The classification factor determines the split between what residential and commercial property owners pay. The current 1.63 classification factor means businesses are taxed at a rate 63 percent higher than they would be if the rate was the same for all types of property — both homes and businesses.
Mayor James Fiorentini is expected to recommend steps to help people who are struggling financially. He said he plans to propose:
An increase to the personal property exemption for small businesses to $7,000 from the current $5,000, which would help 90 of the city's smallest businesses in addition to 1,000 that receive help already. It would cut between $123 and $172 off the annual bill for eligible businesses.
Helping restaurants by waiving outdoor dining fees for the coming year, waiving application fees for liquor license renewals and reducing liquor license fees.
Increasing a tax exemption by 20 percent for certain groups of taxpayers, including those 70 and older who have limited incomes, widows and widowers with financial limitations, disabled military veterans, former prisoners of war and the blind.
Providing a full tax break for parents of military veterans who died in the line of duty.