The Recorder - My Turn: A view on Greenfield's tax rate

Recently, a Recorder headline read “Greenfield Tax Rate Lowered” and yet many of our property tax bills have gone up. This is confusing....



Recently, a Recorder headline read “Greenfield Tax Rate Lowered” and yet many of our property tax bills have gone up. This is confusing. Here is my take. If you already know all this or if the numbers make you nauseous, jump straight to the comics page.

First, your property tax bill is calculated by taking the “taxable value” of your property – land, residence, outbuildings – and multiplying it by the “tax rate”. Tax rates are given in dollars per thousand of value.

For example, my property is assessed in 2022 at $154,700 (the rate is $22.32 per thousand – total tax of $3,465.11). Last year it was assessed at $138,400 (rate was $22.93 per thousand – total tax $3,173.51). These are all public records available through the Reviewers webpage.

These figures come from the “actual” tax invoice, sent in December, due on January 1 of the following year. With a quarterly tax bill system, perversely we always get the ‘real’ bill, including the new taxable value, just at Christmas – a nice touch. The fiscal year is then half over, since it begins on July 1st. The two previous invoices you received are “estimated”, based on the previous year’s invoice.

OK, the tax rate went down 61 cents and I paid $291.60 more — What? Obviously, the increase in value exceeded the reduction in rate this year for my property.

I get the value change. House prices have risen dramatically. The Department of State Revenue (DOR) wants appraisals to reflect the elusive “full and fair market value.” Appraisers must adjust the values ​​annually based on sales. These adjustments apply to entire classes – they cannot “spot assess” a single property (appraisers will adjust individual values ​​based on new construction and changes in condition, size, and function, however). Will prices continue to rise? Was my house really worth that on January 1st. 1st 2021 — target date for 2022 assessment? Who knows?

Back to the tax rate. How’s it going ? Well, it’s a process.

First comes the city’s budget, which should be done by July 1 for the new fiscal year. A budget is exactly that – what the city plans to spend to operate, undertake capital projects (construction) and meet debts (loans, bonds, pensions, etc.). Once the city decides if it wants to “split” the tax rate (residential vs. commercial/industrial), assessors must calculate the “levy” – the actual amount the city should collect in local taxes. The levy is the budget minus any revenue the city can use to help pay the budget – state and federal aid, dog licenses, waiver stickers, parking tickets, pot sales, etc.

Once the city confirms that it has not exceeded the “draw limit” set by Proposition 2½, all that needs to happen is to take the total draw and divide it by the total city value ( all real estate and “personal property” – like a utility company and other equipment, boats, etc.), get “certified” by the State Department of Revenue and – tada! — a new tax rate is born.

Greenfield’s FY2022 budget is nearly $67 million. State assistance is estimated at about $18.5 million, other revenue at about $11.5 million, for a total of about $30 million. Subtracting $30 million from the budget leaves the levy – around $37 million. I’ve simplified these numbers a bit, but they’re almost correct. Greenfield’s total assessed value is approximately $1.6 billion. Thus, $37 million divided by $1.6 billion equals 2.23%, or a tax rate of $22.3 per $1,000. A property worth $100,000 would pay $2,230 in tax. These numbers are all available on the DOR Local Services Office Data Bank website – an excellent source.

So, does the rate really matter? Not really, all I care about is the bill. The fare is really the dog’s tail. If the values ​​increase, the rate decreases – assuming the same drawdown. If the levy increases, the tax rate increases – assuming the same overall city value.

Greenfield’s tax rate for 2022 is the third highest in the Commonwealth. Well, why is that? Budget too high? Overall value ($1.6 billion) too low? Both? Do we want a split tax rate?

These questions will be the subject of my next screed – assuming the recorder gives me the space.

Henry Leuchtman lives in Greenfield.



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Newsrust - US Top News: The Recorder - My Turn: A view on Greenfield's tax rate
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