HARVARD — At a tax-classification hearing held at Tuesday night’s selectmen’s meeting, the Board of Assessors and Regional Tax Assessor Harold Shied presented a case for continuing the town’s single-tier tax structure, which the selectmen voted unanimously to retain.
The annual hearing is required by state law, said Shied, who is also a tax assessor for several other north-central Massachusetts towns.
The question before selectmen was whether to keep the “uniform” tax rate, which includes all classes of property, or adopt a “split” tax rate that would shift the tax burden from residential to commercial and industrial taxpayers.
But with so few businesses in town, it would take a hefty hike on the commercial side to make a difference for homeowners. Shied explained that to reduce the residential tax rate by 1 percent, the commercial rate would have to go up 19 percent. “It would be of no practical benefit, so we recommend the single tax rate,” he said.
Selectmen were also presented with two other options to re-do the town’s tax structure.
Adopting a residential exemption would shift the tax burden from lower- to higher-valued properties, but the assessors didn’t recommend that, either, in part because there had been no “public dialogue” about it, Shied said. They also advised against adopting a small commercial exemption, which would shift the tax burden from small to larger businesses. With only small businesses in town, this wasn’t a viable option, the selectmen agreed.
Anticipating this year’s tax bills, Harvard homeowners can expect a 2 percent tax increase from last year, or about $150, Shied said.
In fiscal 2010, the average single-family tax bill in town was $8,529 for a home valued at $595,200, with a tax rate of $14.33 per $1,000 of valuation. For fiscal 2011, with the assessed value of an average single-family home down to $561,400 with a rate of $15.47, the tax bill for that home will be $8,685, according to a chart the assessors provided.
In other business, selectmen and Planning Board members jointly appointed Michelle Catalina as a full member of the Planning Board by a unanimous roll call vote. Filling the vacancy left by former Chairman Joe Sudol, who recently moved to Texas, the former associate member will serve out his term and until the next town election in May.
The Planning Board still has openings for associate and full time members, Chairman Kara Minar said. Citizens interested in serving may contact a board member or call Julie Doucet in the Selectmen’s office for an application.