House hikes

UPDATE: Get town-level data on average property-tax bills for single-family households in 2000 and 2009 as an Excel spreadsheet or PDF. Note that the state’s Division of Local services does not calculate property-tax averages for communities granting residential exemptions, including Boston.

property tax relief may be the Holy Grail of Massachusetts politics (it’s even touted as one of the benefits of casinos), and the map below shows why. The average property tax bill in Massachusetts went up 48 percent from FY2000 to FY2007, and in a few dozen communities, it jumped by more than two-thirds.

For the most part, the increases highlighted on the map came not because of tax rate hikes or Proposition 2 1/2 overrides but because of soaring property values. (One outlier is the Connecticut River town of Erving, which started out the decade with one of the lowest average tax bills in the state, $327, but has had to come up to a still relatively low $1,203 as it has expanded government services.) Among communities with at least 1,000 residential properties, Everett had the biggest increase in property taxes, almost exactly doubling from $1,431 to $2,836. During the same period, the property tax rate was actually cut from $10.41 to $8.34, but the city still took in more revenue because the average property value almost tripled, from $136,000 to $340,000. Everett did not get a boost from new residential growth, however, as it was one of the few communities in the state to lose taxable residences (six of them) over the time period. The biggest tax jump among municipalities of more than 5,000 residences was in Woburn, where home values more than doubled and the average tax bill rose from $1,874 to $3,356—but the addition of 209 properties to the tax rolls may have prevented an even bigger shock for homeowners.

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Among towns with at least 5,000 residential properties, Chatham saw the smallest percentage increase in the average property tax bill, going from $2,520 to $3,118. But the Cape Cod town also posted the state’s biggest jump in average home value during the same period: $250,000 to $893,000, or 257 percent. Because of this explosion in property values, plus the addition of 362 new households to the tax rolls, the town cut its tax rate from $10.08 to $3.49 per $1,000 of assessed value.