Published in the October 16, 2018 edition.


WAKEFIELD – The local property taxes you pay will be going up, but not as much as they could have. The town has again this year decided to forego increasing the tax levy by the full 2.5 percent allowed by law and will go with a 2.1 percent increase for FY 2019.

In addition, the Town Council has continued its historical practice of choosing the maximum allowable shift factor, moving more of the tax burden onto the commercial/industrial classes of properties and thereby affording residential tax payers the lowest share of the property tax burden allowed by state law.

Director of Assessments Victor Santaniello appeared before the Town Council last night for the annual tax classification hearing at which the tax rate for FY 2019 was set.

As a result of last night’s Town Council action, the residential tax rate for FY 2019 will be $12.83 per $1,000 of valuation. This means that the owner of the average single-family home in Wakefield valued at $528,200 will pay $6,777 in property taxes this year. Choosing the maximum allowable shift factor results in an $819 savings to the average single-family taxpayer, Santaniello said.

The tax rate for Commercial/Industrial/Personal (CIP) property will be $25.16. This means that the owner of the average Wakefield commercial property valued at $1,312,2000 will pay the town $33,015 in taxes this year.

The residential tax rate has actually gone down slightly from last year, from $12.95 to $12.83 per $1,000 of valuation. But because residential property values have increased in the last year ($498,500 to $528,200 for the average single-family home) the average residential taxpayer will be paying $6,777, an increase of $322 or 4.98 percent over last year.

By raising the tax levy by only 2.1 percent instead of the allowable 2.5 percent, the town will be foregoing $573,667, Santaniello explained. As a result, the residential tax rate is reduced by $0.10 and the CIP rate is reduced by $0.20. This translates into a $53 average savings for residential taxpayers and $262 for CIP classes of properties in FY 2019.

Santaniello noted that FY 2019 is the fifth year of the full debt exclusion for the Galvin Middle School. The debt exclusion adds $2,408,343 to the FY 2019 total tax levy. It adds $0.42 to the residential tax rate or $222 to the average single-family tax bill and $0.83 to the CIP rate or $1,089 to the average commercial tax bill.

In addition to setting the tax rate, the Town Council continued its historical practice of not offering an “Open Space Discount.” The Open Space Discount, Santaniello explained, is narrowly defined under state law. A maximum exemption of 25 percent may be adopted under this provision, however the town has never voted a discount for open space since no properties have been identified in Wakefield that fulfill this section of the law, Santaniello said.

Similarly, the Town Council opted not to offer a “residential exemption.” Santaniello explained that the residential exemption of up to 35 percent of average residential value has only been adopted in a handful of communities including Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea and Brookline.

The Town Council also declined to offer a small commercial exemption, defined under state law as an exemption of up to 10 percent of the property valuation for commercial properties only. Eligible business cannot have more than 10 employees as certified by the Department of Employment and Training, Santaniello explained. The building value cannot exceed $1,000,000 and one business in a building cannot qualify unless every business qualifies. The exemption goes to the building owner. Santaniello said that the Assessing Department is unaware of any properties in Wakefield meeting these requirements.

Santaniello offered a comparative look at last year’s (FY 2018) property taxes among towns contiguous to Wakefield.

WAKEFIELD – Residential tax rate: $12.95; CIP tax rate: $25.61; Average single-family home value: $498,454; Average single-family tax bill: $6,455.

LYNNFIELD – Residential tax rate: $13.76; CIP tax rate: $17.08; Average single-family home value: $630,402; Average single-family tax bill: $8,674.

READING – Residential tax rate: $13.87; CIP tax rate: $13.92; Average single-family home value: $533,537; Average single-family tax bill: $7,765.

SAUGUS – Residential tax rate: $11.58; CIP tax rate: $24.58; Average single-family home value: $408,574; Average single-family tax bill: $4,731.

STONEHAM – Residential tax rate: $11.71; CIP tax rate: $22.35; Average single family home value: $498,780; Average single-family tax bill: $5,841.

MELROSE – Residential tax rate: $11.33; CIP tax rate: $19.36; Average single-family home value: $538,034; Average single-family tax bill: $6,096.