NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council approved a split tax rate Tuesday that will marginally lower the tax rates for both residential and commercial/industrial properties.
In a special meeting held for the annual tax classification hearing, the council voted to accept the administration's recommendation of a shift of 1.68 percent toward the commercial side.
The rate will be $18.53 per $1,000 valuation for residential, down eight cents from this year, and $39.26 per $1,000 valuation for industrial, commercial and personal property, down 51 cents from $39.77.
A single tax rate would have been $23.37.
The owner of the average home will see their tax bill rise $214.79, about 7 percent, the lowest increase in the past four years. The average single-family home has increased in value by more than $12,000, or 8 percent, from $155,312 to $167,574.
The rate is dropping but valuations — as in many Berkshire communities — are on the rise. The city saw its total value rise by $50 million, for a total of $858,571,231. This the third consecutive year the total value has rising by nearly $40 million or more. Between fiscal 2018 and 2019, North Adams actually lost value.
The main gain in value was in residential properties, up $49,593,983 to $658,062,492. Commercial is also up, by about $5 million, and industrial about $1.5 million.
On the other hand, personal property is down $4,45,400, for a total of about $56 million.
Part-time Assessor Greg Betti said the drop in personal property was largely due to the loss of 24 businesses over the past year. Council President Lisa Blackmer also pointed out that second-home owners pay personal property taxes but that ends if they make North Adams their primary residence.
After being told the city did not have an accurate list of second-home owners, Councilor Keith Bona asked how the city collects that information to bill.
"I think that's an important number we need to get in the future," he said. "The census is either level or dropping, but we are getting more residents, they're just not permanent residents."
Total new growth came in at $5,671,320, split about half between residential and personal property. That adds about $164,000 in taxable value based on last year's rates.
"A lot of properties, they went from exempt to real," Betti said. "So for example, we had Johnson School came on the rolls. It was exempt and is now worth a million dollars of value. A couple of other ones if you'd like a couple examples: 306 Union St. went from exempt to real for a value of $180,024; Mohawk Trail $65,000 exempt to real property. ...
"So that helps us offset the tax rate and allows us to increase our tax levy."
Councilor Marie T. Harpin said she was concerned about the trend to push more onto the residential side. The residential side is dropping by 8 cents and the commercial by 51 cents, she said.
"That is a pretty significant number when you're looking at a comparison of the 51 cents compared to eight cents, big difference," she said. "So again, I will not vote for this tax shift, just as I have in previous years. I think we need to take some of the burden off the residents if we can."
Lamb acknowledged the council's desire to provide some relief to local business over the past few cycles.
"We are putting 168 percent of the tax burden per $1,000 on our commercial folks by passing this," said Councilor Benjamin Lamb. "I just want to state that clearly so it's clear to folks that are watching at home or in the chambers is that we're actually putting more burden on the commercial folks than the residential folks to make our tax bill work. ...
"I'm not a huge fan of continuing to increase that gap between the residential and the commercial rates, I think that this is the logical number to go with, without it becoming significantly burdensome in the opposite direction."
Bona said many people think it's giving Walmart a break but most of the businesses in North Adams are mom & pops and many are in residential areas.
"They own a property that is the size of a house and it's right next to a residential," he said. "They're paying over two times the taxes for the same property. ...
"I want to see more of those small businesses, businesses that are one to 20 people. Unfortunately, we can't have a separate tax rate for the businesses like Walmart. So do we punish the small businesses because we have a couple large chains like that?"
Bona pointed out that the city has one of the lowest tax bills in the state and is lower than most of the communities surrounding it. But it still has to pay its bills and try to hire people, he said.
The shift was approved 8-1, with Harpin voting in opposition.
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Bird, Gittens Spark Second-Half Rally for MCLA Men
MCLA Sports Information
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- MCLA's Hayden Bird and Quentin Gittens combined for 32 second half points as the Trailblazer men's basketball team pulled away from visiting NVU-Lyndon 91-74 this evening in non conference play.
The win for MCLA (4-5) marked its second straight triumph. The Hornets drop to 1-5 overall.
Both teams traded runs in the opening half and MCLA led by double digits early. The Hornets fought back however and trail just 42-41 at halftime. Drury alum Bird and Taconic gradate Gittens were relatively quiet in the opening half combining for just 7 points on 1-for-5 shooting.