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Amherst homeowners could see $400-plus annual tax increase

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Staff Writer
Monday, October 11, 2021

AMHERST — Typical homeowners in Amherst could see tax bills rise by more than $400 based on preliminary tax-rate estimates provided to the Town Council by the Board of Assessors this week.

Although the projected tax rate is going down to $21.27 per $1,000 valuation from $21.82 per $1,000 valuation, the average home’s assessment is up to $404,700, from an average $375,507 assessment last year.

Using those figures, and assuming the Town Council doesn’t use a split tax rate in which commercial property owners have to pay a higher tax rate, the average residential tax bill would be $8,608, an increase of $414 from the $8,194 tax bill this year.

David Burgess, serving as a consultant and interim assessor, attributed the average home valuation increase to there being a seller’s market.

“The market is very active at the moment,” Burgess said.

Before the tax rate is set, councilors will have to decide whether to use the split tax rate and also decide on offering an open space discount, a small commercial exemption, and a residential exemption.

With a request from councilors for more information about the residential exemption last year in which the tax burden would be put more on rental properties, Finance Director Sean Mangano presented a report of the challenges this would entail, including more work for the assessors’ office and the difficulties in identifying rental properties.

Such a policy would shift the tax burden away from lower-valued, owner-occupied properties to other types of residential properties, including the 31% or so that are rentals. Just 15 communities in the state have adopted this policy, all near Boston or on Cape Cod.

Burgess retired as principal assessor and returned to the office following the departure of his successor, Elizabeth Duffy, over the summer. At the hearing Monday, the council was introduced to Kimberly MacDonald Mew, recently appointed as new principal assessor.

Mew served most recently as chief assessor in Greenfield and has received certification from the Massachusetts Association of Assessing Officers.