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Brattleboro tax rate set

Homeowners carrying most of the burden

BRATTLEBORO—The Selectboard voted to approve the homestead and non-residential tax rates last week.

According to Town Appraiser Albert Jerard, overall the municipal rate rose 1.2 percent, largely due to maintaining the current trash system.

The overall homestead rate, however, went down 2.5 percent.

That’s the overall numbers. As this is a reappraisal year, homeowners whose property reassessment was over 2.5 percent will see a jump in their homestead tax rate, said Jerard.

The total homestead rate, which applies to homeowners, was set at $2.6349 per $100 of assessed value. The total non-residential rate, which includes commercial property and second homeowners, was set at $2.5586 per $100.

Homeowners carry burden

The 10-year trend of homeowners carrying the burden of the tax rate continued into this tax year. Homesteads comprise approximately 66 percent of the grand list.

“Those numbers are why we have such a residential portion of the taxes. It would be nice if there was a better split [between homestead and commercial] but that involves a lot of hard work by the Selectboard,” said Selectboard Clerk Jesse Corum.

Jerard said the town’s common level of appraisal (CLA), the number the state assigns to calculate what towns pay in education taxes, increased slightly this year which, counterintuitively, Jerard characterizes as good. He would like to see that figure to go higher.

“We expect that next year the CLA should go up [more] which would keep the homestead rate from going up,” he said.

About 500 property owners filed for grievances this year after seeing the reassessments of their properties, Jerard said. Many of the appeals came from young couples and senior citizens. “I can’t see how I can pay these taxes,” was a common theme for these two groups, he said.

Jerard is concerned homeowners won’t be able to sustain the level of taxes over time.

The state designed property tax rates so businesses and second homeowners would carry most of a town’s tax burden. But it’s not working that way in Brattleboro.

One impact on Brattleboro’s tax rate is the level of education spending, Jerard said. Brattleboro spends above what the state recommends, and the impact of this extra spending trickles down to homeowners.

“It would behoove citizens in general for the town to encourage development of business and industry,” he said, adding that Brattleboro’s taxes are high even for New England, which tends to have higher taxes than the rest of the country.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #64 (Wednesday, August 25, 2010).

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