Massachusetts lawmakers face a looming deadline to pass a state budget, with the fiscal year ending this Saturday, and while city and local officials watch to see the final local aid numbers for fiscal 2013, it's property taxes that fund the biggest chunk of most municipal budgets.
According to data from the state Division of Local Services, commercial, industrial and personal property makes up 5.4 percent of Winchester's overall property tax base. Winchester had the smallest commercial tax base out of the Boston area communities in our chart (see below).
Other communities in single-digits are Melrose (5.9 percent), Arlington (6 percent), Winthrop (7 percent), Lynnfield (8.1 percent) and Reading at 9.9 percent.
Winchester area towns include Stoneham (11.6 percent), Malden (14.6 percent), Wakefield (15.6 percent) and Saugus (21.1 percent).
There's little surprise when it comes to cities with the largest commercial tax bases: Cambridge (38.6 percent), Everett (35.5 percent), Boston (35 percent) and Woburn (30 percent).
Proposition 2 1/2, the state statute that went into effect in 1982, limits how much revenue cities and towns can raise from local property taxes each year, requiring voters to approve debt exclusions or overrides to raise more than allowed under the law.
Some communities also have the option of using a split tax rate and taxing commercial, industrial and personal property at a higher rate than residential property. The state uses a formula that takes into account factors such as the percentage of commercial and residential property in the city, and then determines how much more than city can tax commercial properties than residential properties.
Local legislators do this by selecting a "residential factor" that, in turn, determines how much of the tax burden can be shifted onto commercial properties. For instance, a "shift" of 1.50 means that commercial, industrial and personal property are taxed 50 percent more than residential properties.
The chart below shows the total value of all residential properties by community; the total value of all commercial, industrial and personal property by community; and how their corresponding percentage of the community's total property value. The last column shows by what factor each community shifted the tax burden onto commercial properties, if allowed by the state.
|Res., Open Space Value as % of Total Value
||Commericial, Industrial and Personal Property (CIP) Value ($)
CIP as % of Total Value
[Editor's note: Figures in the chart above are from fiscal year 2012 and taken from the Massachusetts Division of Local Services.]