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Williamstown Property Tax Rate Jumps 9 Percent
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
01:12PM / Tuesday, September 27, 2011
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The Board of Selectmen approved keeping the tax rate the same for both commercial and residential properties.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Homeowners will be picking up more of the tax burden this upcoming year because commercial properties have lost significant value.

According to Town Manager Peter Fohlin, residential properties lost 3 percent in value whereas commercial lost 13 percent. Despite those changes, the Board of Selectmen voted to tax all properties at the same rate of $13.98 per $1,000 of assessed value. That is a 9 percent hike over last year's rate of $12.70.

"We are increasing the tax levy 2 1/2 percent this year. You will see that because of property evaluations, the tax rate will change more than that," Fohlin said. "Property values have gone down in recent years and that is particularly dramatic with commercial/industrial properties."

The average assessment for a single-family home is $376,428 and the average tax bill will be $5,263.

Each year the board has the ability to adopt a "split" tax rate for the different types of properties. To keep the residential rate the same — at $12.70 — there would need to be a 75 percent shift of the tax burden to commercial properties, Fohlin said. However, towns may only shift the burden by 50 percent and if the Selectmen chose that route, rates would be $13.12 for residential and $20.90 for commercial properties.

"Williamstown has not done that in the memory of anybody still living," Fohlin said.

Top Taxpayers
1 - Williams College
2 - Steinerfilm
3 - Sweetwood
4 - Spruces
5 - Sweet Brook
Fohlin also presented an option to keep the same percentage of the taxes. Currently residential properties account for 88.04 percent of the total. That option would translate to rates of $13.81 for residents and $15.33 for businesses.

"Given the decrease in commercial and industrial properties, in my opinion, it doesn't make any sense to put more of the tax burden on these folks,"  Selectmen David Rempell said.

When asked if the town has seen any major taxpayers leave town, Fohlin said it was the opposite. Sweet Brook Care Centers and Sweetwood Retirement Community have both been added to the tax roll after Northern Berkshire Healthcare sold the properties to the private DES Senior Care Holdings LLC.

"Those two properties are now the 3rd and 5th highest taxpayers," Fohlin said.

In other news, Linda Bell, a resident of the Spruces Mobile Home Park, asked the town to support going to Housing Court on Wednesday in an attempt to force the park's owners, Morgan Management LLC, to fix infrastructure on the west side of the park so that electricity can be turned back on. Fohlin told the board that the company's electrician has determined the electrical infrastructure for about 80 homes is unstable and must be repaired before the individual homes can be energized.

"I'm waiting for my electricity to be turned on," Bell said. "They're telling us we can't have electricity until spring or possibly ever."

Bell told the board to she wanted to go to Housing Court to help speed up the process. Fohlin said he will ask Health Inspector Jeffrey Kennedy if he is able to attend to help navigate the court system.
The board also appointed Ryan Neathawk to the Zoning Board of Appeals and approved a liquor license for Olympic Pizza Family Restaurant. Fohlin also reported that the state Department of Transportation will soon begin cutting brush from the side of the Taconic Trail in order to improve visibility of the truck ramp. The town signed an agreement to let the state clear brush from a portion of town land to do so.

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