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Easthampton property tax bills to increase by $284 for average homeowner

The average Easthampton homeowner will pay $284 more in property tax bill next year after the Board of Assessors approved the new property tax rate Nov. 14.

The new rate is $14.51 per thousand dollars of value, up $1.24 over last year’s rate of $13.27. That increase is more than twice that in 2011, when it rose 58 cents from $12.69 in 2010. For someone with a home assessed at $229,000 — the average home value in Easthampton — that means a tax bill of $3,322.79.

Principal Assessor Mark Dimauro said the main factor in the rising property tax bills is the Easthampton High School building project. The cost of the $18 million debt-exclusion override first showed up on tax bills last year, but cost taxpayers more in its second year.

“About 90 cents of that is the high school,” Dimauro said.

Assessors determine the tax rate based on the state law that allows them to increase the tax rate up to 2½ percent each year, plus overrides and debt exclusions, and takes into account new taxable properties in town.

Dimauro said that this year, the city’s taxable property growth was “well above average.”

He credited a lot of that to the construction of the new Easthampton Savings Bank Loan Center on Northampton Street and improvements to the 180 Pleasant St. mill building. Owner Michael Michon renovated the third floor of the building to create 13 apartments, which significantly increased the value of the building, Dimauro said.

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Studio sales on tap

Easthampton artists are hoping local shoppers will avoid the shopping malls and look a little closer to home for gifts this holiday season.

The 26th annual Cottage Street Studios Winter Open Studios and Sales that run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 will feature the work of over 50 artists and craftspeople, most of whom have studios in the building, offering everything from fine art to jewelry and home furnishings.

“It’s been growing every year,” said Margaret Larson of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, located in the former mill building at 1 Cottage St.

“We have a lot of regulars that come to the event every year to buy gifts for other people but also for themselves,” she said. “One thing the artists have done really successfully is widen the range of things available, so there are items for every price range.”

New this year will be food provided by Popcorn Noir and displays from a few textile artists who do not have studios in the building: Lisa Bertoldi, who weaves kitchen towels using yarn and a loom from Sweden, and Scott Norris, who offers kitchen linens that are also handwoven.

“I think it’s just part of being a good member of the artistic community and giving others a chance to show what they have as well,” Larson said of the additional artists.

The sale runs Nov. 30 from noon to 5 p.m.; Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Dec. 2, from noon to 5 p.m.

For more information or for a full list of artists selling their wares, visit www.cottagestreetstudios.com.

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Open space campaign

The Pascommuck Conservation Trust’s “Save Open Space in our Neighborhoods” campaign to raise $133,000 to fund the purchase of 28 acres of land has raised approximately $13,000 so far. Board member Suzanne Walz said she hopes the sales of a wall calendar she has created will help the campaign towards its goal.

Walz has been making her own fundraising calendar for three years. While the proceeds always go to the trust, this year it is specifically for the its most ambitious fundraising campaign ever.

Jean-Pierre Pasche, owner of Eastmont Custom Framing and the Elusie Gallery in the Old Town Hall, is also seeking photographs taken in Easthampton in 2012 to create a calendar to sell starting Dec. 8, with all the proceeds going to the campaign.

Walz’s calendar includes photographs she has taken of two of Easthampton’s most well-known landmarks, Nashawannuck Pond and Mount Tom, taken in the corresponding month.

She said she usually sells about 50 each year at the Nash Gallery on Cottage Street. “I’m hoping that with the campaign, they’ll be more interest in supporting it,” she said. “It’s a nice gift for people who love the pond.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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