UPDATED: Homeowner Tax Bills to Rise as Selectmen Seek Business Boost
The average bill will increase less than $9 for 2013, while shifting less of the tax burden to commercial and industrial properties will move that tax rate below $40.
A divided Framingham Board of Selectmen voted to approve a split tax rate for 2013 that results in a modest increase in residential tax bills and shifts less of the tax burden onto commercial property owners than in past years.
By a vote of 3 to 2, Selectmen approved a 2013 residential tax rate of $17.84 per thousand dollars of valuation and a commercial rate of $39.98.
The average single family home, valued at $324,152, will see a tax bill of $5,782.87, an increase of $8.92.
If a full shift of 1.75 percent had been approved, as in past years, the average single family home tax bill would have dropped by just under $14. Instead, Selectmen adopted a 1.74 percent shift.
Selectman Jason Smith called the smaller shift "an investment in Framingham's future," one that will work in concert with other steps the town is taking to make for a more favorable climate for businesses.
Smith said these steps "will give us a real chance to offset the residential tax rate by hopeful attracting new commercial business so we can have more money to invest in our schools, public safety and our services for all tax payers."
Smith added that Framingham's commercial tax rate for 2012 was the fourth highest in the state.
"By doing this, we are letting businesses know that Framingham is open for business," he said.
The move was encouraged by the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce, whose president, Bonnie P. Biocchi, told Selectmen in a letter that a split rate with a maximum shift would be "deleterious to small businesses."
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Selectmen Chair Charles Sisitsky, who joined Selectman Ginger Esty in voting against the motion, said lingering confusion about how the town assesses commercial properties and the fact that homeowners are still reeling from last year's significant tax increase meant a full shift was in order again this year.
"Last year, residential homeowners took a beating and we said we would try to help," he said.
"We can't forget what happened last year," Esty added.
Before the vote, members of the public spoke on both sides of the issues.
Town Meeting member Herb Chasan, citing data showing Framingham with a lower commercial property vacancy rate than some comparable communities, said businesses in Framingham are doing fine, while "homeowners need a break."
However, Dr. David Moore of Framingham Orthopedics Associates argued it was unfair to burden businesses disproportionately to help homeowners. "That rate translates to dollars and cents out of our pockets," he said. "We [businesses] don't cost the town very much."
Finance Committee Chair Dan Lampl said getting the commercial rate below $40 would help with recruiting new businesses to town, suggesting the threshold was an important psychological one.
"The town needs to do more to build up its commercial tax base," he said.
UPDATED: With another quote by Selectman Jason Smith 4 p.m. 12/19