News: Bostonians bemoan tax-grab

Mon, 03 Sep 07

As home values decline across Massachusetts, property taxes are soaring...

Property tax bills rose an average of $161 in the past year. The average bill for a single family home hit more than $3,962 -- an increase of about 4.2 percent compared to last year.

In 65 communities, taxes climbed at a rate of 7 percent or more, according to the state Department of Revenue.

50% tax hike

Since 2000, property taxes have jumped nearly 50 percent. Over the past seven years, the average annual property tax hikes for homeowners have ranged from about $150 to nearly $215, The Boston Sunday Globe reported.

The increase has homeowners grumbling that they are being asked to pay higher taxes even as local services are being trimmed.

But municipal officials say their hands are tied as they work to cover the soaring cost of health care, pensions and energy costs.

Assessments for single-family homes statewide climbed to $406,673, breaking the $400,000 barrier for the first time. Average home values have more than doubled between fiscal 2000, when they were $185,009, and fiscal 2007, which ended June 30.

Tax double whammy

In eight communities, average home assessments broke the $1 million mark. Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard topped the list, which also included Weston, Dover, Edgartown, Lincoln, West Tisbury, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Wellesley.

Despite the higher taxes, homeowners shouldn't expect a boost in local services, observers said.

"There's a double whammy going on for homeowners," said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. "There are increasing residential property taxes on the one hand and cuts in local services on the other."

Holding down local tax rates could result in broader and unpopular cuts in programs and services, including laying off teachers and other municipal employees, said Widmer.

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