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What Is Winchester's Commercial Tax Base?

Winchester has the smallest commercial tax base in the region, in terms of percentage of total property value.

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.

Community Residential 
Value ($)

Res., Open Space Value as  % of Total Value
Commericial, Industrial and Personal Property (CIP) Value ($)

CIP as % of Total Value

CIP Shift Arlington
6,534,177,068 94.00 6,954,794,567 6.00 1.000 Boston 57,517,785,218     
65.00 88,500,410,287 35.00 1.750 Cambridge 15,018,134,067 61.40 24,446,954,999 38.60 1.697 Chelsea 1,394,456,339 68.10 2,047,008,800 31.90 1.750 Everett 2,279,045,425 64.50 3,535,432,288 35.50 1.750 Lynnfield 2,096,637,630 91.90 2,282,013,467 8.10 1.083 Malden 4,045,434,816 85.40 4,736,723,206 14.60 1.750 Medford 5,581,478,578 87.00 6,418,755,640 13.00 1.750 Melrose 3,324,784,060 94.10 3,533,935,488 5.90 1.480 Reading 3,389,725,591 90.10 3,764,013,606 9.90 1.000 Revere 3,206,665,958 84.80 3,781,124,856 15.20 1.750 Saugus 2,927,046,300 78.90 3,708,538,050 21.10 1.750 Somerville 7,099,067,112 84.60 8,390,572,190 15.40 1.750 Stoneham 2,607,923,631 88.40 2,951,475,123 11.60 1.500 Wakefield 3,238,660,039 84.40 3,837,880,740 15.60 1.750 Winchester 5,078,548,573 94.60 5,367,101,340 5.40 1.000 Winthrop 1,560,586,625 93.00 1,677,355,600 7.00 1.000 Woburn 3,932,472,349 70.00 5,619,109,630 30.00 1.750

[Editor's note: Figures in the chart above are from fiscal year 2012 and taken from the Massachusetts Division of Local Services.]

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