Selectmen stayed with their pro-business philosophy Thursday, voting in a single tax rate for residential property, as well as commercial/industrial and business owners. Board members Mary Steele and Robert Salvo were absent.
Residential properties make up almost 84 percent of the town’s tax base, while commercial/industrial occupy only 16 percent, a ratio the board would like to change.
Director of Assessors Lisa Cathcart said the proposed single rate of $14.92 across the board would increase the taxes on the average single family home by $246, about a 6 percent hike. Cathcart calculated the average home in Norton at $281,500.
Increases felt by commercial and industrial properties vary by size – small commercial properties would see a 10 percent increase, or $473, and the largest would pay $5,877 more, also a 10 percent increase.
Cathcart said the increases reflect the 4 percent loss in property value for the town. “When the values go down, the rate goes up,” she said. The cost of a debt exclusion voted by the town also hits this year, she said.
Selectmen reasoned splitting the rate would put an undue burden on business and commercial owners already hit hard by the economy.
“The impact on business would be dramatic,” said chairman Tim Giblin. “[A split rate] deters business from coming in – once you begin I don’t know any town that’s gone back. I can’t see benefits to residential citizens that are worth it.”
Vice chairman Bob Kimball agreed. “This is my 18th classification,” he said. “We don’t have that much of a commercial financial base – we want to see more of it. They help pay for our schools.”
Cathcart said within the next few weeks property owners will be able to see property records and values on line on the Assessors department web site. “They can appeal of they think they are overvalued,” she said. She noted this past year was a revaluation year, and said often the revaluation staff cannot get into homes because people are working during the day, so sometimes estimations of rooms and additions can be inaccurate.
“It’s hard to inspect every house,” she said.
The town’s top ten taxpayers are the Holiday Inn in the Norton Commerce Center, Autoparts International, Hallsmith Sysco, Norton Glen, the Tournament Players Club, Verizon New England, Norton Senior Health, Stage Norton LLC, T-Mobil and APCA Norton LLC.