City councilors Steve Murphy (at large) and Bill Linehan (South Boston, South End) today will propose setting a limit on how much a homeowner's property taxes can rise from one year to the next.
The two argue that residents in areas undergoing gentrification are being unduly burdened by the fact that as foreclosed and distressed properties get renovated, their property values - and so their property taxes - are going up too fast. In a request for a hearing on a "circuit breaker" provision, they add:
Increases in property tax bills being seen in the post-recession real estate market have not been fully matched by a bounce-back in the employment sector, making it difficult for many long-time homeowners to continue to afford their homes.
Their proposed limit would be on top of the tax break homeowners already get. They did not detail the potential costs to the city of their idea.
Chris Faraone examines the implications of Boston's heavy reliance on the property tax for income.
At least, when it comes to reimbursing Boston for city services.
A new report by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge looks at "payments in lieu of taxes" negotiated between some municipalities and their non-profit, non-property-tax paying landowners. Boston collects more of these payments than any other city in the country (and Massachusetts has much more cities collecting them than any other state), but because they're negotiated separately, the amount each local institution pays varies considerably.
The money shot of the report, at least for Bostonians, is a chart (page 22, if you download a copy of the 4.5M PDF file) showing just how much local non-profits paid the city in 2009. At the very top is BU, which paid $4.89 million, followed by Harvard, at just a pinch under $2 million. Northeastern? It paid all of $30,571. Now, the total worth of BU's and Harvard's land holdings in Boston is more than that of Northeastern, but not that much more. The authors also look at how much in taxes the institutions would have to pay if they were for-profit concerns and what percentage of that amount the voluntary payments reflect: For BU, it's 8.5%, Harvard, 5% and Northeastern, 0.08%.
Three reasons: Property values continue to sink, commercial development continues to escalate, and Tom Menino got legislation passed that changed the way residential and commercial tax revenue related to each other (until this year, state law barred Boston from reducing residential tax income unless it did the same for commercial properties).
This contrasts with Brookline, where selctmen tonight are expected to raise residential property taxes.
Gail Spector comes back from a trip to Syracuse, NY with two main impressions: Sure, houses are a lot cheaper there, but property taxes are so much higher, like $7,000 a year on $200,000 home.
Of course, that's just an average. While the taxes on our humble Colonial in Roslindale will go down about 8% (must be the "semi-modern" bathroom the city thinks we have), Kevin McCrea says the taxes on the properties he owns in the South End and Roxbury are going up between 17 and 30 percent:
... Unfortunately, I and most other residents of the city can't just vote ourselves 17 percent raises in back room deals. ...
Seth Gitell, former Menino spokesman, blames an antiquated holdover from the days when the Yankee elite wanted to stick it to the Irish in Boston:
... Boston is handcuffed by an archaic system of finance that prevents it from raising revenues on its own. Dating back to the days when the Yankees who controlled the State House instituted tough measures as a block on urban Irish power, these rules provide the city only a handful of mechanisms to raise funds, namely property tax, which everybody admits is clumsy and often unfair. Under this outdated structure, it's up to the state to return the funds to the city, which only gets back one dollar for every six it sends to Beacon Hill, in the form of local aid. This was an attempt to suppress James Michael Curley ...
Tomorrow, in West Roxbury, Gibran Rivera is holding a community meeting on property taxes. Gibran is running to represent West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain (District 6) in the Boston city council. To be discussed are the estimated doubling of residential property taxes over the next five years, and why a minority of properties (47%) bear all of the city's property tax responsibility.
When: Thursday, November 3, 7:00PM
Where: Theodore Parker Unitarian Church, 1859 Centre St., West Roxbury