Ashburnham’s FY15 tax rate has been certified at $22.28.
“Why is our tax rate so high?”
Comparing tax rates is not a good indicator of the tax burden it is the result of taking what the town can raise in taxes called the Town’s Tax Levy, and dividing it by the Town’s total Real-Estate Value. The Tax Levy, due to the 1993 acceptance of proposition 2½ legislation, limited the towns’ increase of their tax levy by 2½ percent each year. The total Real-Estate Value is determined by adding together all the taxable parcels in Town.
Over the last 6 years as the tax levy increased each year by 2½ percent, the Town’s total real-estate value dropped by 18.9%. This in itself has resulted in an increase of 42.8% to our tax rate, yet the average Ashburnham tax bill increased 15.2% compared to the states average of 18.32%.
For 2015, the Briggs Elementary School project was funded through a debt exclusion allowing the Town to raise through taxation for 20 years the annual debt service of $1,298,000 which represented $2.45 on our tax rate.
For many years state funding and local revenue has supplemented our tax structure, but with the state cutting back and local fees in decline more pressure has been put on the tax payer to maintain services. The Board of Selectmen each year also reviews the option to use a split tax rate where the residential and business are two different rates. Although 23.5% of Massachusetts communities use this split tax rate to help offset the increase, Ashburnham with its minimal business/industrial properties would benefit very little without tripling their rate.
“How does Ashburnham compare with other towns our size
regarding the amount of taxes we pay?”
Comparing 47 communities that are +/- 1000 in population to Ashburnham, in 2014 although we had one of the highest tax rates we were:
- 5th lowest average property value
- 11th lowest in tax dollar per capita
- 14th lowest overall average tax bill
“Where do we go from here?”
Ashburnham works very hard at keeping costs down and although recovery is slow our property values, local receipts, and state revenues are all increasing, and on the expense side once we complete a new DPW facility our buildings and infrastructure will be in good shape. Ashburnham has now achieved the status of a “Green Community” and with it has received a $150,000 grant that will be used to improve our town buildings and decrease our energy usage. Our roads, with Chapter 90 monies and additional Town funding have greatly improved and I believe that in the next few years we will see the “Tax Rate” decrease and tax bills stabilize.
Doug Briggs, Town Administrator