Amid growth spurt, Lenox to see modest tax hike

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LENOX — Residential property owners will see only a modest increase in their real estate tax bills for the current fiscal year through June 30.

That was the upbeat message delivered to the Select Board recently by Board of Assessors Chairman Wayne Lemanski and Lee-Lenox Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen.

The tax bill for the average single-family home valued at $400,888 (up from $395,817 last year) is set at $4,867 for the 2018 fiscal year, an increase of only $34. In 2013, the average tax bill was $4,496.

Property values have been relatively stable, according to the latest assessors valuations, and there has been $31 million in new growth, far above the $13 million average during the five previous years, Lemanski reported at the annual tax classification public hearing.

"The growth figures are a validation that Lenox is a good place to live, own a second home and to do business," he said. "Finally, after a long, hard climb from the recession, the town's total valuation is approaching the levels reached in 2009."

The current total value of all property in the town is $1.2 billion, up from $1.1 billion five years ago. Of the total, 80 percent is based on residential home values.

The town has $1.6 million in headroom before it reaches its $16.9 million "levy limit" for taxation, Ketchen said. "For fiscal policy reasons, we see greater value in citizens holding on to those funds in their own bank accounts as opposed to the town's treasury," he said.

The Select Board voted to continue a split rate — $12.14 per $1,000 of assessed value for homeowners and $14.98 for commercial and industrial property owners as well as for personal property — as it has done since 2006, shifting the burden slightly toward commercial and industrial taxpayers and away from homeowners.

The residential rate is down by 7 cents from last year, and the commercial rate is down by 8 cents.

The tax collection rate is high, said Board of Assessors member Thomas Romeo. "There are very few people who aren't up to date on their taxes," he said in response to a query by Planning Board member Kate McNulty-Vaughan.

Romeo also praised Administrative Assessor Randall Austin for "very fine work" in compiling the information for the annual tax classification hearing.

"We manage our money well," Select Board Chairman David Roche saidd, "and that's the reason we're able to hold the tax rate this year to a slight decrease but, because of appreciation, a slight increase in taxes. New development helps us, we're not always in favor of new development but there are a lot of retired folks out there, a lot of people on fixed incomes."

Roche pointed out that new development creates property values that generate tax revenue.

"Those taxes help offset the [spending] increases the town faces every year," he said.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.


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