Some of the Anti-Community Preservation Act people argue that $100/year in new taxes is too much for Watertown residents to swallow. So, if that is true, how come when the 4,932 single family homeowners in Watertown received tax reductions of between $100-400 last year there wasn’t more jumping for joy or fainting with elation? My guess is it’s because they didn’t even notice. But it’s true! The residential tax rate for FY16 was lowered from $15.03 to $13.68 AND the residential exemption went up from $1,357 to $1,416 so that, I believe, every single-family homeowner received a tax deduction. You can do the math yourself – I’ll show you how at the end of this note.
There are 2,843 2-family homeowners in Watertown and many of them did see an increase in FY16 but as has been previously reported that is because most of those 2-family homeowners had flat assessments for several years in a row, meaning very nominal tax increases those years and then boom when the assessments finally went up so did their tax bill. However, in my pouring over tax assessments I did find many 2-family homes that saw the same tax deduction as the single family homeowners because they had kept up with regular consistent assessments.
So why were taxes able to go down for so many homeowners in Watertown in 2016? Because of the growth in the tax base. As much as people may not like the development going on in Watertown it does increase the tax base and therefore decrease the individual tax burden on homeowners.
Also, a tiny bit of context. According to a Boston Globe article of January 2016, the average Watertown tax bill is $5,666 and the median income is $86,461. That means that Watertown households are paying about 7% of their income in property taxes. I ran similar numbers for the towns that surround us: Arlington 8%, Lexington, Newton and Cambridge are all 9%, Belmont is 10% and Brookline (the only one of this list that does not have the CPA) is a whopping 16%. So, again, I think Watertown residents might be jumping for joy and heartily thanking our Town Council for keeping our taxes so low while providing a very high quality of life. I’m voting yes on Question 5 so that we can continue to invest in our fabulous town in new and creative ways.
If you’d like to know how your tax bills have varied over time just go to:
1) http://watertown.patriotproperties.com/default.asp There you can enter your address, find your home, click on “Previous Assessment” to see the historical valuations of your property.
2) http://www.ci.watertown.ma.us/DocumentCenter/View/18292 Then you need a document called “Tax Rate History” for the Town of Watertown which shows you the historical tax rates and residential exemptions.
3) Now you can do the math for any one year and then compare years:
(Your total tax assessment divided by 1,000) times (the tax rate) minus (the residential exemption) = your bill
p.s. Watertown is one of only 13 towns in Massachusetts that has a “residential exemption,” which is another reason to go hug your Town Councillor.
Jennifer Van Campen
Phillips St., Watertown