SHREWSBURY – Shrewsbury’s senior assessor Ruth Anderson said her office has been inundated with calls after most residents saw a “very significant jump” in their tax bills this year.
She said so during a meeting with the Board of Selectmen on January 11, acknowledging that this reaction was not necessarily a surprise to city officials.
“You knew this was going to hit some people hard,” Anderson told the board. “And unfortunately you were right. It hits some people very hard.
Shrewsbury eyes tax relief fund
Anderson discussed plans to create a tax relief fund that would be funded by donations and fundraising.
She said it would be separate from the budget and managed by a committee, on which Anderson would sit.
“Generally the way it would work is all the money we bring in each year that we would send out each year,” Anderson said.
Additionally, she proposed changing the parameters governing tax exemptions to make more members of the community eligible. These changes would be made at the municipal assembly.
Tax bills rise for FY22
Elected officials voted in November to pass a residential tax rate of $14.11 for the 2022 fiscal year.
At that time, staff estimated that the $14.11 rate would result in an average tax bill for a single-family home of $7,382.56, an increase of 16.17% over the previous year. .
In one brochure to residents, staff said assessed property values in the city have risen. Additionally, Shrewsbury voters approved a Proposition 2 1/2 waiver last year and a Community Preservation Act surcharge that came into effect in 2022.
According to Anderson, there are provisions that would allow the city to be more generous with its tax exemptions. For example, Shrewsbury could lower its age requirement for such an exemption or raise its income and asset limit.
Anderson said the last of those options had never been realized at Shrewsbury.
“If you think for a moment, the income cap to qualify for one of our exemptions is $20,000. You can’t make more than $20,000 and get that credit,” Anderson said. “It’s old fashioned. So there is a provision in the act where we can change that.
She said the city could also change the size of the tax credit. For example, Anderson said the city could double one of the exemptions for senior citizens, which would result in a $2,000 tax credit.
“These are the kinds of things I’d like the board to think about as we get closer to town meeting and term time – just so it’s not a surprise and it’s a unfamiliar when we get to that point,” Anderson said.
Selectman weighs in on the proposals
Anderson said she was working with Selectman Maurice DePalo, who said he was looking at ways to help seniors before the waiver.
What Anderson is offering needs to be looked at, DePalo said.
“In my time on the board, none of those things have changed, and quite honestly, one of them that I didn’t even know could be changed,” DePalo said. “But I think the city needs to discuss this and seriously consider making adjustments to try to help people who are really taxed out of town.”
He said he hoped something could be brought to the selectors to be placed on the mandate from the town meeting in May this year to help relieve residents over the calendar year.
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