Watertown Residents to See Property Taxes Rise 4.5 Percent

The Town Council approved a tax increase for Fiscal 2013, but will give owner-occupied homes a break.

Watertown residents will see their property taxes rise by 4.5 percent, on average, after the Town Council approved the tax rates for Fiscal 2013 on Tuesday night.

The average assessed home is worth $420,841 and the tax on that home will rise $212 next year for an owner-occupied home, said Francis Golden, chairman of the Watertown Board of Assessors. The rate will be $14.68 per $1,000 of assessed value. A non-owner occupied home of the same value will have a $266 increase on its tax bill.

The CIP (commercial, industrial and personal property) rate will be 27.15 per $1,000 of assessed value, Golden said, a 3.44 percent increase, or an increase of $1,434 on the average bill.

The increase would be more if the Town Council did not also approve a 175 percent shift of the tax rate toward the CIP class and a 20 percent residential exemption. The Town Council has approved the shift and exemption for the past several years, Golden said.


Watertown 2013 Property Taxes

Assessed Value 20% Residential Exemption Non-owner Occupied Home $100,000 $232 $1,468 $250,000 $2,434 $3,670 $500,000 $6,104 $7,340 $750,000 $9,774 $11,010

Source: Watertown Board of Assessors

Of the 9,746 residential properties in Watertown, Golden said that 63.5 percent receive the residential exemption. The difference can be a big, with the tax bill on the average home being $4,942 with the exemption and $6,178 without – a difference of $1,236. Homes worth $650,000 or more will not benefit from the shift, however.

The residential exemption could be higher - a much as 30 percent - and Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis pushed for a 25 percent exemption.

“Last year we increased the residential tax rate by 4.25 percent and this year we are proposing raising it 4.5 percent,” Kounelis said. “I hear from so many residents that this is truly a hardship.”

If the exemption was 25 percent, the average valued owner-occupied homes would pay $80 more, while a non-owner occupied would pay $502 more. 

Kounelis said she thinks landlords could handle the higher tax rise.

“When we have absentee landlords (the rental) is for-profit,” Kounelis said. “I think they will be able to absorb the $502.”

Lexington Street resident Paul Fahey said he supports the 20 percent residential exemption.

“While part of me (as a homeowner) would enjoy the 25 percent exemption, I have been a renter most of my life,” Fahey said. “Whenever possible I think we should have a sense of equity (between owners and renters). There are a lot of reasons why people have rental properties, and I think the 20 percent exemption is reasonable.”

Watertown’s tax rate appears to be higher than surrounding towns, Golden said, with the $14.40 rate in Fiscal 2012 being higher than Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Cambridge, Newton and Waltham.

When you look at the average tax bill, however, Watertown falls in the middle, being around half the amount of Belmont and Newton and two-thirds the amount of Arlington, but higher than Cambridge, Boston and Waltham.

Not all communities have the residential exemption, Golden said, and he said it helps keep Watertown affordable.


2012 Residential Property Tax Rates

Town Tax Rate Ave. Tax Bill Arlington $13.66 $6,565 Belmont $13.35 $9,963 Boston $13.04 $3,305 Cambridge $8.48 $3,919 Newton $11.17 $8,912 Waltham $13.35 $3,952 Watertown $14.40 $4,730

Source: Watertown Board of Assessors

RubyTuesday November 28, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Regarding property tax paid by the OCC, this is from an article by Robert Shay last year: " For example, the Oakley Country Club in 2011 paid only $161,000 in taxes on its 88 acres, a subsidy of over $1.5 million compared to the commercial rate if that land was assessed at its market value. "
Gary M November 28, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Thanks RubyTuesday. Charlie, A potential bigger tax revenue impact is the rumor that Harvard is in negotiations with AthenaHealth for the sale of the Arsenal to them. That will most likely cause either a huge swing up or down in town revenue based on the parcel (the sale price was estimated to be $362m -$200m more than Harvard paid).
Elodia Thomas November 29, 2012 at 03:23 PM
What about Prop 2 1/2? Doesn't this kind of a tax increase require an override?
Charlie Breitrose November 29, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Elodia, Prop. 2 1/2 applies to the overall tax levy limit, which cannot be raised more than 2.5 percent. This year's levy limit increase includes the 2.5 percent allowed under Prop. 2 1/2 and the new growth AND the debt payments, so it actually went up 4.8 percent, according to Francis Golden's presentation.
K Coyne November 29, 2012 at 04:54 PM
In the writeup he also attempts to explain why Watertown's tax rates are higher than say Newton(his example). Stating that the same house in Watertown would be valued more in Newton and thus bring in more taxes. I'm not doubting this but he doesn't go the next step: Why is the same house worth more? IMO one of the main reasons are schools. Something to ponder down the road...


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