Saturday, January 3, 2015

About Those Property Tax Bills…

Ken O’Brien

Like the rest of you, I got my property tax bill today.

Having been told we would have about a 5% tax increase, I was somewhat surprised when I opened the bill.

My property tax had gone from $712.13 per quarter to $778.22 per quarter. That’s an increase of 9.3%

At first I assumed that there must have been a dramatic increase in the valuation of my property.

However, I found that was not the case. My home on North Woodstock Road was still valued at $146,400.

Now, given the approved tax rate of $20.36 per thousand, that works out to an annual tax of $2,980.70.

On a quarterly basis that amounts to $745.18. But my bill is for $778.22.

It seems that the increase in my tax bill from last year should have been $33.05 per quarter. That yields an annual tax bill of $2,980.70, consistent with the approved tax rate and my home’s valuation.

However, for some reason, the quarterly increase has been doubled.  Rather than paying an increase of $33.05, I’m being billed an increase of $66.10. On an annualized basis that means that my tax is not the approved $2,980.70 but rather $3,112.88, or about $21.26 per thousand.

I realized, after I was reminded of it, that the reality is that we are dealing with two different fiscal years. While I, and most of us, live in a January to December fiscal year, the town doesn’t. They live in a July to June fiscal year.

That means that once the council approves a tax rate the twelve month impact must be absorbed by the taxpayer in six months, i.e. their February and May tax bills. Hence the doubling of the impact.

However, the effect doesn’t end there. It carries over to the August and November tax bills. Any adjustment (usually upward) will be done in the following February and May bills.

The point of this exercise is this. When we are told in December that there will be a 5% increase, that isn’t exactly accurate. It may be the case for those living in the July to June accounting cycle. But, to those of us living in the much more common January through December world the real consequence is a 10% increase.

Occasionally this doesn’t exactly hold. There is the rare instance where the distribution among single residence, multi-family and commercial properties shifts the impact. But generally speaking, when the council says they’re approving a, say, 5% increase the reality is the average taxpayer is going to see a real increase of 10%.

It will be interesting to see if the five councilors who signed Councilor Vecchia’s pledge actually abide by it when the time comes to vote on the budget in April. It will be even more interesting to see if they can resist the temptation to add to the budget during the remainder of the year. If they do, then we might be able to expect a whopping 2% decrease in our tax bills come next February.

I’m not holding my breath.


  1. Yes, I too got my 5% tax bill increase (that's really 10%). But for this money I, along with my fellow residents, have a solid fire department and ambulance service; fill-time police department of 30+ members with enough assault weapons to hold of the Woodstock militia should a border war occur; a DPW that keeps my street plowed and leaves collected; a super library; weekly/biweekly collection of my trash and recyclables; a town hall staff that collects my tax money, records how it is spent and will record my death (like anyone would notice); and other odds and ends.

    But my water/sewer bill has surpassed my quarterly tax bill. What do we get for that ridiculous amount of money? A totally mismanaged management company that allowed an obviously unmonitored worker to steal tens of thousands of dollars in brass to sell at a local junk yard; a massive employee herd that tools around town in brand new, high end vehicles; water that my dog won't drink; and a sewer plant that can be smelled in Putnam.

    How can our water/sewer bills be so uncontrolled? It's time to dump White Water Management and take control of our natural resources and our pocket books.

  2. Not One More Dollar For This School CommitteeJanuary 3, 2015 at 9:51 AM

    The town of Southbridge spends around 50 million dollars this year, with half going to our schools. The school department's would spend twice that much, with the same dismal results, if the town council gave them our money to do so.

    But here's a spoiler alert! The school committee has no idea how much money they have, or in reality, don't have. They give "deer in headlights" a whole new meaning.

    Now comes word that they are going to go to the town council seeking more money because of the high electric rate increases. Who can you and I call for help with our same high electric rate increase? We make adjustments to our budgets to manage these unexpected rate hikes. Not the school committee, they continue to hire non-budgeted positions, pay a Worcester law firm attorney to sit in the gallery at meetings at $300.00+ per hour, pay massive amounts in unemployment costs and lost law suits, etc. They do this while students sit in science and chemistry classes without text books for the third year running. (This year's school department budget shows that a paltry $10,000 was budgeted for texts books, district-wide. That translates to $5.00 per student. That means for every 20 students the district can but 1 textbook.)

    Any town councilor that votes to give the school department 1 dollar more for their already huge budget. Get rid of some of the central office staff sitting around doing little. Get rid of some of the secretaries and teachers. Our best hope is to get rid of these "grotesguly inept" school committee members.

    This school department spends more per student than almost any other district in central MA; and their results are amongst the lowest. Pay the electric bill with the money you are obviously not using to educate our children.

  3. Anyone notice what Cohasse Country Club pays in taxes? Whiskey Tango....can we pay them twice their evaluation, take it by eminent domain, and put in a landfill three times the size of our current one?

    This time we can put it out to bid and try to get at least half the amount promised.

    No wonder our taxes are higher than in Sturbridge. What is Willie Conoyer's definition of " average"?

  4. Time Clocked @: 1:02:05January 4, 2015 at 4:34 AM

    Replay & Listen to Southbridge Town Council Meeting - December 8, 2014 Posted Below.

    Clock Time: 1:02:05

    1. It is also notable that of 324 cities and towns currently reporting tax rates for 2015, Southbridge ranks 317 in terms of average home value. This is according to data on the DOR website. In other words, it ranks in the bottom 2% of analyzed communities in terms of individual home values while, according to the presentation by Cournoyer, it ranked in the bottom 14.5% in terms of tax bills.

    2. For 2015 it ranked 274 out of 324 currently reporting average tax bill.

  5. Ken, I went to Town Hall, and spoke with Will. My increase is only 3.67%. There's a lot involved...I would advise anyone with questions to ask Will. Very helpful.


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