Joyce hit with bigger tax bill

Town reassessment of senator’s home increases value by 54 percent

MILTON ASSESSORS HAVE hiked the value of Sen. Brian Joyce’s home because of a real estate listing that showed an opulent finished basement, a livable attic, and more bathrooms than officials were aware of, adding more than $6,000 to the departing lawmaker’s residential tax bill.

The new assessment increased the value of the home from $867,500 to $1.33 million, a nearly 54 percent increase. But the assessment still fell far short of the $1.725 million that Joyce and his wife had listed the home for and what some anonymous critics say should have been a baseline assessment because of the undocumented amenities.

The change in assessment came as a result of a Boston Globe story last summer that claimed Joyce made wholesale changes to the home without the required building permits and without the knowledge of building and assessing officials in Milton. The story pointed out that Joyce had listed the home at $1.725 million and offered the realtor brochure as evidence that the century-old home was far more valuable than town records indicated.

The Globe story said unnamed town officials said Joyce had been “shortchanging Milton on taxes for years by tens of thousands of dollars” and that his home’s value should have been more in line with that of his neighbor, former governor Deval Patrick. Patrick’s home was valued at more than $2 million with an annual tax bill of $27,459, nearly two-and-a-half times Joyce’s $11,700 bill. Patrick sold his house in June for $1.2 million and the 2017 assessment values that home at $1.54 million. The new assessment for Joyce will increase his annual bill by about $6,300, far below the estimates in the Globe story.

The Globe story also claimed Joyce had added 2,500 square feet to the home without the proper permitting, based on the real estate listing.

“The sales brochure clearly describes a house far larger and nicer than the town records show,” said the Globe story. “According to Coldwell Banker, Joyce’s home has 13 rooms on four levels, six bedrooms, five-and-a-half baths, with a total living area of 6,444 square feet. Town records describe it this way: eight rooms on two levels, five bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths, with a total living area of 3,854 square feet.”

But the new assessment, which goes into effect January 1, still lists it as an eight-room, five-bedroom home with a finished area of 3,854 square feet, though it now shows five-and-a-half baths. In August, the town’s chief assessor Robert Bushway told CommonWealth that standard assessing practices did not include finished basements or attics in square footage.

Joyce Brian

State Sen. Brian Joyce of Milton is leaving office next month.

Joyce had earlier been cleared of wrongdoing by both the Board of Assessors and the town administrator, who said all the necessary permits had been obtained to do the renovations on the home. But no town official had been inside the home in more than 14 years to assess the changes so the value reflected what inspectors only knew existed.

The increase in value was triggered by the brochure, which shows an attractive finished basement with a recreation room and a “media room,” as well as a fully utilized attic, neither of which were listed in prior assessments.

“In addition to the finished basement, the land value increased 16.7 percent (similar to other land values in this neighborhood), the condition, addition of a bathroom, the grade of the property (quality of construction), kitchen and bathroom quality, and the garage with living area above increased 38.7 percent,” Bushway said in an email in response to questions.

The new assessment was completed by Bushway based solely on the real estate brochure. He had said in the past that  assessors were unable to get into the home to evaluate its value and Joyce has declined requests to acceess the home for interior inspection. Homeowners are not required to open their doors to assessors.

In his email to CommonWealth, Bushway said the new bills have not been sent out yet but that Joyce is aware of the increase. He added that it is not unusual for valuations to fluctuate based on new information and sales on comparable homes in the area even if assessors cannot get into a home.

“It is not uncommon for properties to experience considerable increases (and decreases) in their valuation based on information we deem reliable (including MLS) if an interior inspection is not achieved,” he wrote.

Joyce, who has until February 1 to appeal the assessment and seek an abatement, did not return a call for comment.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

It has been a rough year for Joyce, who is the focus of a federal investigation into allegations of crossing the line between his official duties and his legal representation of clients. In February, he announced that would not seek reelection to the Senate seat he has held since 1997.