As the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to buffet the national, state and local economies, selectmen this week charted a steady course when it comes to tax policy.
Embracing a recommendation from local assessors, board members Tuesday night voted unanimously to maintain a split tax rate that strives to balance the impact on both residential and commercial property owners.
As a result, an average residential tax bill for the fiscal year that began July 1 — which includes condominium units — is projected to rise by $275 to $7,167, based on an average valuation of $485,976.
Taxes on commercial properties will increase by an average of $889, this based on an average valuation of $2,123,190.
According to Hannelore Simonds, the town’s chief assessor, Foxboro first adopted a so-called split tax rate in 2012, although the variance has been adjusted over time in response to fluctuating property values.
“The tax bills are going higher, not because of the tax rate, but because values keep climbing,” Simonds said. “That makes Foxboro a good investment for residential and commercial property owners.”
State law requires selectmen to enact local property tax rates each year, typically with input from assessors.
Accompanied by assessors Robert O’Donnell and Daniel Smith, as well as town Finance Director George Samia, Simonds made an extensive presentation to selectmen that employed historic precedent to explain the board’s logic and buttress its recommendation.
Samia, especially, delivered a brief primer on Proposition 2 ½ — the state’s landmark tax-limiting law, which caps a community’s annual tax levy limit at 2 ½ percent annually.
Both Samia and Town Manager William Keegan said the law is frequently misunderstood by taxpayers, who believe incorrectly that it prevents individual property tax bills from increasing by more than 2 ½ percent each year.
In practice, Samia said, a homeowner’s real estate taxes more accurately reflect the relationship between a property’s assessed value and the community’s levy ceiling — or the maximum dollar amount the town can raise each year.
Because of that, individual tax bills often exceed the 2 ½ percent threshold based on rising property values.
“It’s not going to be 2 ½ percent on each person’s home,” Samia explained. “It’s on the entire tax base.”
Based on data provided by assessors, the average value of a residential property has risen by $12,860 over the past 12 months — an increase of 2.7 percent.
Foxboro’s total tax levy — including residential, commercial/industrial and personal property — is approximately $53.94 million, Simonds said. Residential properties comprise 78 percent of that total, with commercial/industrial properties contributing approximately 18.3 percent.
“All in all, the significant thing is that values continue to rise and the tax rate is staying relatively flat,” Keegan said.
In her presentation, Simonds said that Foxboro’s top 10 taxpayers will pay for nearly 26 percent of the town’s total tax levy in Fiscal 2021, but did not identify them or detail their projected taxes and assessed valuation, as has been past practice.
Also on the recommendation of assessors, selectmen rejected as inappropriate several available discounts and/or exemptions that would have shifted part of the tax burden onto different classes of property owners.