City council begins annual break down of residential, commercial property tax rates

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City councilors once again brought up the Boston’s annual property tax decisions Tuesday morning, weighing out how much residential and commercial property owners will pay.

“This is a really important process that we’ve got to go through every year — we do go through every year — and it provides significant tax savings to the residents of our city,” said Boston’s Commissioner of Assessing Nicholas Ariniello at a Ways and Means Committee hearing on the property tax order Tuesday.

The proposal would distribute the tax burden so that commercial property taxpayers bear the the maximum tax burden allowed by state law and residential owners would pay the minimum.

This system, also enacted last year, creates “substantial protection and savings for homeowners,” the order states. Last year, the commercial rate was $24.68 per $1,000 of real estate value, and the residential rate was $10.74, Ariniello said. A single tax rate for both would have been $14 per $1,000.

The order also maxes out tax exemptions for residential homeowners to 35% of the average assessed value of the Boston homes.

These two actions create “dramatic savings,” Ariniello said, noting the shift of the burden saved homeowners 24% of their tax bills and the residential exemptions saved homeowners a maximum of $3,456 last year.

The tax calculation for the next fiscal year is based on property valuations up to the start of 2023, Ariniello emphasized.

Councilor Michael Flaherty questioned what impact an economic slowdown and decreasing money from the business community could have on the tax base, citing increase in virtual workspaces.

Ariniello said that though the rates are not yet finalized for the next year, there is no currect indication that there will be a “major shift from commercial value to residential value” and rates are looking “relatively stable right now.”

But regardless, he added, an economic downturn of that type would shift the tax burden, not decrease the tax levy.

“The question that you have, though, is definitely a concern that we have for the future, especially based on some of the transactions that have been in the news during calendar year 23,” Ariniello said, citing lower commercial property values.

Councilors also emphasized other available property tax exemptions, like those for seniors and veterans. The fastest way to find more personalized information about those, Ariniello said, is to reach out to the Taxpayer Referral and Assistance Center.

Councilors spoke broadly in favor of the proposal, with Councilor Sharon Durkan noting the city is “already reaping the benefits” of the policy and should continue.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” said Councilor Gabriela Coletta. “Anytime that we could put more money back into our residents’ pockets, I appreciate that.

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