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By Katina Caraganis

MediaNews

SHIRLEY — Residents will see about a 2 percent hike in their tax bills this year, after selectmen opted to keep the town at a single tax rate Monday night.

The town’s tax rate for both residential and commercial properties will increase from $12.31 per $1,000 in valuation to $13.69. For the owner of a typical home in town, valued at $264,000, property taxes will increase from $3,573 to $3,641, according to Town Assessor Rebecca Caldbeck.

As for shifting a greater burden of the tax base onto businesses, Board of Assessor member James Keefe said it simply didn’t make sense. That’s because such a move wouldn’t show a significant change to a residential tax bill, but would result in a drastic increase for commercial tax payers.

For example, if 10 percent were shifted to commercial properties, residential customers with a home valued at $265,968 would see a $41.36 decrease on their bills, but a small retail store valued at $300,000 would see an increase of $410.84 on its tax bill.

Selectman Armand Deveau said it’s important to keep the rate in check for both residential and commercial customers in town.

“If you look at some of these numbers, and if you went to 125 percent split, the average change (increase) would be over $1,000 for commercial,” said Deveau. “That’s significant to the $100 savings that residents would get. It’s out of balance to do it at this point.”

Colleague David Swain agreed.

“I think we need to encourage more businesses coming into town. The town needs to be more business-friendly,” said Swain. “I know just from talking to businessmen in surrounding towns where they had a significant classification shift and they’re all struggling to pay taxes.”

Transitional Manager and Board of Assessors member Ron Marchetti said it’s important to encourage local businesses to stay while promoting the town to prospective businesses.

“In addition to providing local jobs, many town businesses contribute in a non-tax way to our town with donations of time, space, equipment and funding,” Marchetti emphasized.

Selectmen Chairman Kendra Dumont agreed.

“I’m in favor of the one rate. I think it encourages businesses to come to Shirley and helps businesses that we have now that do so much for us,” she said.

Caldbeck said the total value for all town property is $585.5 million, a decrease of about $40 million from the previous year — and $111 million in the past four years.

“Property values have fallen,” she said. “Our estimated tax rate is based on our estimated tax levy. At this time our levy is a little over $8 million.”

Caldbeck explained the increase on tax bills stems from values going down and the lax levy — estimated to be $8,018,374 — going up.

“It was redistributed over a smaller base. That’s why the rate has changed,” she said. “In Shirley, our major class is single-family properties.”