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Councilor John Barrett III objected to the commercial shift, saying it should be higher.

City Auditor David Fierro Jr., left, Assessor Ross Vivori and Mayor Richard Alcombright answered questions.

North Adams Sets Tax Rates for Fiscal 2014

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
12:43AM / Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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The City Council on Tuesday night approved a series of motions that set the tax rate at $15.93 per $1,000 for residential properties.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a series of transfers and cuts totaling $258,000 and set the tax rate.

Property owners will see a tax rate of $15.93 per $1,000 valuation, up from $15.30 this year. The commercial rate rose from $33.95 to $34.55.

The average single-family home, assessed at $135,833, will see an increase of $91.95, about $2,163.

The transfers and cuts balance a budget that was passed in June with a structural deficit of $335,000. Free cash, however, was zero as the fiscal 2013 budget was completely spent.

"Our current budget revenue projections are conservative, however, I do not feel comfortable with projecting increases in any specific revenue line items at this time," Mayor Richard Alcombright read from his communication to the council.

The commercial, industrial and personal property (CIP) shift was set at 1.71 by a vote of 7-1 with Councilor John Barrett III voting naye. Councilor Jennifer Breen was absent.

Barrett said he didn't disapprove the transfers but had an issue with the CIP, thinking the shift should be the maximum of 1.75, putting more burden on commercial interests.

He argued that the council shouldn't be focusing on rates but tax bills when determining commercial rates, which would make the city competitive with other communities because its assessments are lower even though the rates are higher.

"The commercial tax bill is lower, lower than many other communities," he said, saying that large concerns like Walmart, Verizon and Crane & Co. were getting tax breaks instead of residents.

Alcombright said the city's assessments were comparable to communities such as Adams and Pittsfield and that keeping the commercial slightly lower makes the city competitive.

"There are entities that are looking at Adams because of the significantly reduced commercial rate," he said. "It sends a message to business that we're friendly."

Adams recently set its fiscal 2014 rates at $19.95 for residential and $23.69 for commercial, with a shift of 1.70. The average single-family home in Adams is $134,398 with a tax bill of $2,463.

The council approved the transfer of some $132,080 from the overlay surplus account (fees and taxes not expected to be collected but which are) to the firefighters salary account and $93,000 from the land fill account to the Department of Public Safety, Health Inspections; and cuts to information services of $15,000 along with a transfer of $15,000 from the technology account to cover the amount.

A total of $240,080 in transfers and $18,000 in cuts reduced the budget from $36,493,884 to$36,235,804 and the amount to be raised by taxation to $14,434,111. That is an increase of 5.37 percent over this year and includes a 2.5 percent increase allowed by law and new growth of $393,604.

The city has seen a growth in valuations of $4 million over this year; some $8 million in commercial growth was seen (most from the new Walmart Super Center) but realized a $3.7 million decrease in personal property values. Residential values were down $316,000.

The mayor said he expected to see more increases in commercial values next year with the additions of Tractor Supply and Ocean State Job Lot in the former Walmart and expected growth on Route 8. The tax breaks given to Crane & Co. for expanding its work force will also begin to decline.   

In other business, the council:

Adopted language from MGL Chapter 44A to allow bonding on the state's credit rating. "We can get our pricing based on our own credit raiting or get our bond based on the state's credit rating," said the mayor. The city currently has an A3 rating and the state Aa2 and AA.

Approved a transfer of $51,000 from this year's overlay toward the three-year revaluation; this is the second of three payments. A private firm has been hired to do the work and its representatives have been provided with photo identification badges by the city. Residents with questions about the evaluators' IDs can contact the police department.

Referred a request from the Planning Board for six-month moratorium on medical marijuana facilities to the Community Development Committee. In his communication to the council, the mayor had asked it be referred back to the Planning Board and the General Government Committee; difficulties in getting a quorum on General Government led it to be referred to Community Development.

Recognized longtime Councilors Alan Marden, President Michael Bloom and Marie Harpin, all of whom are stepping down at the end of the year.

Tags: property taxes,   tax classification,   tax rate,   

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