After three straight years of tax increases of just over 2 percent, Watertown's residential property tax rates will rise 4.25 percent in Fiscal 2012.
The new rate means the bill on the average home, assessed at $410,554, would be $4,730, or a rate of $14.40 per $1,000 of assessed value, said Francis Golden, the chairman of the Board of Assessors.
The Commercial rate will rise 0.77 percent to $26.64 per $1,000 of assessed value, Golden said.
The Town Council voted to approve the rate Tuesday night, which includes a 175 percent shift of the tax burden from residents to commercial, industrial and personal property taxes along with a 20 percent exemption for owner-occupied properties.
The town can give even greater exemptions to owner-occupied properties, up to 30 percent. Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis said she wanted to increase the exemption to 25 percent.
"Property owners are hurting and they are saying they can't afford a tax increase," Kounelis said. "If they have a for-profit property, that's exactly what it is."
A 25 percent shift would reduce the average tax bill to $4,606 for owner occupied properties. A non-owner occupied property would be $5,912 (a 4.25 percent increase) for the 20 percent exemption and $6,142 with a 25 percent exemption, or an 8.31 percent increase, Golden said.
Piccirilli said he preferred to stay with the 20 percent exemption, to maintain consistency. Watertown has had the 20 percent exemption since 2002.
The Town Council voted 8-1 in favor of the 20 percent residential exemption, with Kounelis voting against it.
Who Receives the Residential ExemptionType Total # Exempt Percent Single Family 2,898 2,474 85.4% Condos 3,310 2,103 63.5% Two Family 2,820 1,542 54.7% Three Family 397 147 37% Apartments, 4-8 units 128 12 9.4% Other 166 29 17.5% Total 9,719 6,307 64.9%
Source: Watertown Assessor's Office
Changing Property Values
The tax rate jumped more than previous years because commercial property assessed values have dropped about $8.5 million due to the global economic downturn while residential assessed values have risen, Golden said.
The residential growth is due to $24 million in new growth, and also because the Assessor's Department has better information on properties in town, Golden said.
"If we find two bedrooms we didn't know about, a new fireplace or a finished basement, we can't call it new growth, it is added to the base," Golden said.
The assessor's officer spent six months adding new information about home additions and improvements, Golden said.
Town Councilor Vincent Piccirilli asked why the town had a sudden jump in property taxes. He asked Golden whether the assessed value actually dropped the last few years, or was it increasing but the town did not know about it.
"It was there, it just wasn't catalogued," Golden said.
Golden added that a similar updating of commercial properties will be done this year, and he expects a similar adjustment next year.