By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The local property tax rate went down this year, but because of a rise in property values, tax bills will be going up. The owner of an average single-family home in Wakefield valued at $633,300 will be paying $7,802 in taxes this year. That’s an increase of $308 (4.1percent) over last year.
The average commercial tax bill will come to $34,053, which is $315 (0.93%) more than last year.
As they have done historically, the Town Council chose the maximum allowable shift factor, affording residential taxpayers the lowest share of the tax burden allowed by state law. Choosing the maximum allowable shift results in an $836 savings to the average single-family home owner.
At the maximum allowable shift, the residential tax rate is projected to be $12.32 per $1,000 of valuation. The tax rate actually went down $0.42 from last year’s $12.74, but the average single-family home value increased 7.6 percent, from $588,200 to $633,300.
The Commercial/Industrial/Personal (CIP) tax rate will be $23.77 per $1,000 of valuation. The CIP tax rate dropped by $0.90, while the average commercial property value rose 4.8 percent.
Using a PowerPoint presentation, Director of Assessments Victor Santaniello walked the Town Council through the numbers at Monday’s meeting.
Santaniello noted that FY 2022 is the eighth year of the full Debt Exclusion for the Galvin Middle School. That Debt Exclusion adds $2,481,148 to the FY 2022 total tax levy. It adds $0.46 to the Residential Tax Rate or $291 to the average single family tax bill. It adds $0.70 to the CIP rate or $1,003 to the Average Commercial Tax Bill.
With the exception of Saugus which has the Route 1 business district, Santaniello pointed out that residential properties in Wakefield realize the lowest possible share of the tax burden compared to contiguous communities.
There was some discussion of whether the town should be going to the full 2 1/2 percent increase in the tax levy. Town Councilor Edward Dombroski maintained that the town should not be going to the full 2 1/2 percent in the current climate, contributing to the 4.1 percent increase to residential taxpayers.
He also objected to the fact that the assumption to increase the tax levy by 2 1/2 percent seems to be “baked into” the process, with no clarity as to the decision-making process. He maintained that the decision of whether to go to the full 2 1/2 percent should be made by the Town Council in consultation with other boards, and not just assumed.
Although Wakefield has gone with a lower tax levy increase in some years, Santaniello said that he knew of no other community that increases in the tax levy by less than 2 1/2 percent annually
Board members said that any decision on going with a smaller tax levy increase should come early in the budgeting process.
The Town Council also voted not to offer an “Open Space Discount” as no properties have been identified in town which fulfill the legal definition.
They also voted not to offer a “Residential Exemption.” Santaniello noted that the exemption makes more sense in communities with a larger percentage of rental properties, whereas most homes in Wakefield are owner occupied. Approving the residential factor would result in approximately 30 percent of homes shouldering the burden.
In addition, the Town Council declined to to offer a “Small Commercial Exemption,” as the Assessing Department is unaware of any business meeting the legal requirements.
No one from the public testified at the public hearing either in person or via Zoom.