SHIRLEY -- Meeting jointly Monday night, selectmen and the Board of Assessors held a tax classification hearing, required by the Department of Revenue annually, to determine the town's tax classification for the coming year.

"As usual, we are recommending a residential factor of one, said Principal Assessor Becky Boucher. That is, to maintain a single tax rate.

There are other options, most of which don't fit Shirley's taxation profile.

One option would shift the brunt of taxation away from homeowners, who make up nearly 90 percent of the tax base, and toward businesses that constitute only 10 percent. Given the imbalance, the assessors advise against it. The burden on industrial and commercial taxpayers would be onerous, increasing all out of proportion with relatively small residential savings, Boucher explained.

Selectmen endorsed the assessors' recommendation.

The assessors also use the annual classification hearing to inform the public on other tax-related matters, Boucher said.

For example, adjustments for fiscal 2013 show a 19 percent decline in tax revenue since 2007, when it peaked. Lost revenue over that time totals $9 million, Boucher said.

Pending the outcome of the Nov. 6 election ballot question that proposes a Proposition 2 1/2 tax override to hire an additional police officer, the total tax levy is currently 64 percent of total revenue, up from a much lower percentage in the past.


Advertisement

Based on current information, the tax rate, when it's set, would be $15.66 per thousand.

Today's average tax bill is $4,090.94 per year for an average-valued home, Boucher continued. As values drop, the bill goes up.

Breaking it down, she said that about 53 percent of every tax dollar paid to the town goes to education. By comparison, only four cents is contributed to public works and 12 cents to public safety.

Statewide, the single-rate recommendation is common. Of 351 communities in Massachusetts, only 108 split their tax rates.

If the override passes on Nov. 6, it will cost the average homeowner an additional seven cents on his tax bill this year, or $17 total. Fully-loaded next year, the increase would be about 13 cents, or $33 for the year, Boucher said.

Another potential change is the Ayer-Shirley Regional High School building project that voters will consider on Nov. 17 in a district-wide election, along with a town-centric ballot asking for a debt exclusion to fund each town's share of it.

The Finance Committee -- meeting at the same time down the hall -- would discuss the tax impact if the debt-exclusion passes and plans a press release Oct. 23, after Ayer holds its fall Town Meeting, Boucher said. "It's been calculated."

School officials have said the annual tax uptick if debt-exclusions to fund the project's local share pass in both towns would be about $200 in Shirley, $180 in Ayer.

"There will be more housekeeping" issues for selectmen to deal with after the override, Boucher concluded, wrapping up the presentation.

Selectmen voted unanimously to adopt a residential tax factor of one, per the assessors' recommendation.