Pandemic Won’t Catch Up with Town Real Estate Values for at least a Year

If the pandemic has an impact on the value of local real estate, it won’t be apparent for another year, Bruce Murphy, chair of the Board of Assessors, told the Select Board Monday.

But even as Murphy acknowledged the one-year lag on valuations, Matthew Lanefski, the town’s new director of the Assessing Department, said early indications are that residential values will continue to rise.

The Select Board, as expected, approved the usual tax classifications Monday, once again valuing commercial and industrial property at 175 percent over residential.

That sets the stage for final calculations that, if approved by the state Department of Revenue, will lead to a residential tax rate of $13.58 per $100,000 valuation – an increase of five cents – and a commercial and industrial rate of $29.93, an increase of 21 cents per $1,000 valuation.

Murphy said “we are not seeing the effect of the pandemic in this year’s numbers. The market data that we use lags by a year so we won’t start to see the effect of the pandemic until next year.” He added, “I would expect that it will have more of an effect on commercial, industrial, and personal property than on the residential side.”

Lanefski said sales so far this fiscal year are “still very strong, as far as sales being above assessed value. People’s values are going to be edging up a bit, it looks like for the foreseeable future.”

Murphy presented data showing that, between the increased value and the tax rate rise, the tax bill for an average single-family house will increase by 3.3 percent. (That will be reflected in the third-quarter bill.) In answer to Select Board member Emily Mitchell’s point, Murphy agreed that the increasing value is the significant variable.

The total of new growth, $52,310,450, is the lowest over the past seven years, Murphy said. The 6.8 percent in new non-residential growth also is “indicative of revitalization of the industrial sector,” he said.

Over the past decade, Murphy said, the annual residential tax rate increase has ranged between 1 and 6.9 percent. “We are not seeing anything unusual,” he said. “It is well within the range of what we’ve seen in the past.” In answer to a question from Select Board member Bopha Malone, Murphy confirmed that a full revaluation is scheduled for next year. Murphy has said he will not be a candidate for re-election in 2022.

Town Manager Sarah Stanton pointed out that “we have a litany of programs available” for taxpayers who qualify for abatement of real estate taxes. She said more information is available through the Assessors’ office.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763

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