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Average homeowner in Amherst to pay 3 percent more in property taxes next year 

The Select Board on Monday set the tax rate for fiscal 2013 at $20.39 per $1,000 valuation based on recommendations from the Board of Assessors.

At the annual property tax classification hearing, principal assessor David Burgess said the tax rate will rise from $19.74 per $1,000 valuation.

“That will mean the average tax bill will be $6,504 this year,” Burgess said.

The average tax bill was $6,293 last year.

Burgess said the average assessed values for homes, at $319,000, are essentially the same as last year, when they were assessed at $318,800.

“Generally, properties will not change,” Burgess said.

The average commercial property value is up to $360,000 from $354,800 last year.

Burgess said there were only about five new houses built this year that were calculated toward so-called new growth of just over $500,000. The bulk of this new growth came from the 12-unit mixed-use development at Boltwood Place, the completion of the Lord Jeffery Inn project and new utilities infrastructure.

The board voted against splitting the tax rate to put more of the tax burden on commercial entities. With a maximum 50 percent shift in the burden, the residential tax rate would only fall to $19.23 per $1,000 valuation, saving the average homeowner $370, while the commercial tax rate would go up to $30.58, a $3,700 increase in bills for these properties.

Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe said elected officials have rejected the idea of splitting the tax rate each year because of the high costs to businesses and commercial property owners.

The board also rejected the residential exemption for owner-occupied properties. O’Keeffe said this only works well in communities with large vacation home populations and would burden those living in rental homes by shifting some property taxes to them.

The board voted down a commercial exemption. Burgess said his department is unaware of any qualifying commercial enterprises in town.

Select Board member Alisa Brewer said she understands some residents have a serious concern with the tax rate exceeding $20. Brewer said town officials are trying to address this.

Town Manager John Musante said keeping the tax rate in check can be accomplished through a combination of spending restraint and having an appropriate mix in the town’s tax base.

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