City of Pittsfield FY19 residential tax bill, tax rates down, marking a significant trend

City of Pittsfield FY19 residential tax bill, tax rates down, marking a significant trend

 PITTSFIELD, Mass. –The average single family homeowner will see a decrease in their FY 19 tax bill – a change that last happened in 1993, Mayor Linda Tyer announced on Wednesday. Along with the lowered residential tax bill, the FY19 residential and commercial tax rates are down as well, a reduction which last happened for both 11 years ago.

The administration’s good news is part of a proposal that will be submitted to the City Council for the Tax Classification Hearing during the Nov. 13 meeting. The council is expected to take a vote on the proposal’s shift factor of 1.6560, which defines how the city apportions the amount of taxes to be raised between commercial and residential sectors.

If approved, the residential tax rate will go down from $20.01 to $19.42 (.59 cents per $1,000); savings for the average residential value of $186,600 is $9.48. Meanwhile, the commercial tax rate will go down from $39.98 to 39.94 (.04 cents per $1,000).  The savings for median commercial value of $189,000 is $367.38.

In the City of Pittsfield, there are over 19,000 taxable properties, this includes real estate, commercial, industrial, and personal properties. Of this number, 11,332 are single-family homes in the city.

Mayor Linda Tyer said these reductions mark a key turning point and reflect her administration’s commitment to fiscal stewardship in the midst of challenging times.

“This is a remarkable turnaround considering where we were when I took office in January 2016. We inherited a decade of declining property values, rising fixed costs, and no plan to stabilize the situation,” the mayor said, who noted that three successive budgets included either level-funded or reduced departmental budgets. “There was no single magic bullet to get us out of the situation.”

Some of the administration’s strategic initiatives include the city’s work with the Lt. Governor’s community compact program to develop a long-range forecast and improved budget transparency; implementation of new strategies to better manage the city’s debt obligations; fair negotiation of three-year contracts; and collaboration with the city’s Public Employee Committee (PEC) to create a brand new health insurance program, resulting in millions of dollars in savings for the city and more options for employees.

“A major point here was health insurance costs. We were able to come together and negotiate a contract that supported our cost containment efforts,” said Mayor Tyer. These efforts have helped to support the city’s work to set a lower tax rate and still offer robust services to city residents.

Finance Director Matthew Kerwood elaborated on the steps behind establishing the tax rates.

“We will continue to develop budgets that are conservative but make investments in the areas we know have a positive impact on our quality of life.  This is how we continue the trend of rising property values which results in further lowing of the tax rate.”

As property values in the city continue to rise this leads to higher total valuation, which is essential to increasing the levy ceiling, Kerwood notes.

The residential sector has seen a steady increase, while commercial properties have maintained through recent years, says Assessor Paula King.

“As an assessor, I have a responsibility to assess fairly and equitably. The state’s Department of Revenue has reviewed and approved our values, so I am thrilled that we are able to report that the overall values of the city have continued to increase,” says King.

Building upon this good news, Mayor Tyer says her administration will continue along the pathway of fiscal responsibility.

“These are sound financial decisions happening in the City of Pittsfield. Our goal is to continue to build on this. We are cautiously optimistic, but we will still be conservative in our budgeting for next year,” she said.