November 18, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer
In accordance with tradition, the Selectmen last night voted to maintain a single tax rate for all town properties.
"The year 2020 has been difficult on all of us, but we are especially concerned about the impact on the businesses in town, and the board [of assessors] feels that a split tax rate would put more strain on businesses and commercial properties," said Director of Assessing Erin Walsh.
A special committee was formed a few years ago to consider the benefits and the downside of adopting a split rate, ultimately recommending that the percentage of residential and commercial properties would need to change dramatically before it might make sense to consider a split rate. At that time, Hingham had about 11.3 percent commercial and industrial properties. For Fiscal 2021, the percentage remains about the same.
Splitting the tax rate would not change the total levy of the community but rather would determine the share to be borne by each class, residential vs. commercial.
"We looked at the projected estimated effect on property taxes by shifting the rate to commercial and industrial based on an $800,000 assessment and our current tax rate of $11.53," said Walsh.
At last night's tax classification hearing to decide whether to shift the tax burden between the residential and commercial property classes as allowed under state law, Walsh explained that a shift of 10 percent would only decrease the average residential tax bill by about $113 annually, while increasing the average commercial tax bill by about $2,100 a year.
A shift of 25 percent would decrease the average residential taxes by about $291 annually, while increasing the average commercial taxes by about $5,340.
"Local business owners have expressed gratitude to the town for keeping the same tax rate. Many of the businesses, especially in downtown Hingham, are smaller stores and would have difficulty paying a higher tax rate," Walsh said. "Many of these local businesses contribute generously to our students by donating to various fundraising efforts benefitting many sports, theater, and other programs."
It's been a difficult year for Hingham's small businesses and will likely continue to be even more so heading into the winter, board members agreed.