Select Board keeps single property tax rate

Nov 16, 2022

Local commercial, industrial and personal property owners can breathe a sigh of relief — they will not have to pay a greater percentage of property taxes next year.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to continue having residential property owners pay the lion’s share of taxes at their Tuesday, Nov. 15 meeting, deciding that the amount of money homeowners would save by splitting the tax rate is nowhere near the amount of money that business and summer cottage owners would have to pay.

It is a decision that the town makes every year on whether to make commercial, industrial and personal properties pay a higher percentage of taxes, and therefore reduce the percentage that homeowners pay.

According to a presentation by Assessing Director Jacqui Nichols, 80% of property taxes typically come from homes, while 20% comes from commercial, industrial and personal property. If the balance were to be shifted by 1.1%, the average homeowner would see savings of $64. The average business owner would see their taxes go up by $717. With a 1.5% shift, homeowners would save an average of $329, while business owners would see a $3,591 tax increase on average, according to Nichols.

“A split rate does not increase revenue,” Nichols said. “It simply shifts the tax burden.”

Such a tax shift would make Wareham less appealing to prospective businesses and tourists looking to buy a summer home.

“Many of the town’s commercial properties are leased,” Nichols said, “and landlords typically pass the increase onto the tenants, which would impact our smaller businesses which are locally owned.”

With this in mind, the Select Board voted to keep the tax rate the same. Selectman Alan Slavin said that it would be unfair to increase taxes on businesses in such a way, after the losses they incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I think it’s inappropriate at this particular time to put any burden on the business community,” he said. “I think we [should] wait two years to take a look at this again.”

Nichols’ report also found that for fiscal year 2023, the value of the average single-family residence went up from $323,000 to $378,000.

“We still have one of the lowest tax bills in the state,” said Nichols.

The average tax for single family parcels in Massachusetts in 2022 was $6,525, according to Nichols. The average for Bourne in 2022 was $5,295, but the average single family tax bill for Wareham was $3,513, according to Nichols.

The highest single family tax bill in Marion was $7,685.

The average commercial property value is $724,000 and the average industrial value is $764,000, which has increased from the previous year’s worth of $694,000.