Selectmen Approve Assessors Tax Classification Recommendations

By Debra Parkhurst

At the Annual Tax Classification Hearing on November 16, the Assessors presented their recommendations to the Selectmen for Fiscal Year 2016.  As in the past, the Assessors recommended that the Board adopt a shift of a portion of the residential tax burden from Residential/Open Space (RO) to Commercial/ Industrial/ Personal Property (CIP) by a factor of 175 percent.  They also recommended an Open Space discount of 25 percent. All the recommendations are in keeping with the past practices of the Town.   These proposals would result in a Residential Tax Rate of $15.28; an Open Space Rate of $11.47, and a CIP rate of $32.12.

Regarding their methodology, the Assessors explained they must abide by Massachusetts Department of Revenue Rules and Regulations for uniform appraisals.  While residential appraisals are based on market rates where there are frequent sales and considerable data, the setting of commercial value is more hypothetical and in these instances, the Assessors shall also consider potential income stream.   The two Boards discussed potential values of commercial properties, depending on whether they are improved or upgraded (or not) and how this impacts their use and value.  According to a memo from the Board of Assessors, these rates to not increase to the extent allowed under Proposition 2-1/2. They wrote,  “The Town of Bedford did not raise the maximum tax levy allowed by law. For 2016 this unused or “excess levy capacity” has been calculated to be $1,917,844.”

Of note was a discussion of the future of the Open Space exemption.  At this time, only five properties qualify (three residential and two commercial); only 23 communities in the Commonwealth use this exemption.  The Assessors may consider a re-classification in the future, noting that there are more effective options for encouraging open space, and will address this with the owners of these properties

A member of the audience presented the Board with a list of Town commercial properties and their valuations, noting considerable differences among these properties.   The hearing closed and the Board unanimously approved the recommendations by the Board of Assessors.

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