By Christopher Roberson
The City Council recently voted 8-3 to set the tax rate for fiscal year 2019 at $11.01 per $1,000 for residential properties and $23.69 per $1,000 for commercial properties.
By comparison, the rates approved for fiscal year 2018 were $11.46 for residential properties and $24.11 for commercial properties. Although the new rates are lower, the average residential value has skyrocketed from $361,300 last year to $393,800 this year. The average commercial value has also increased from $1.4 million to $1.5 million during the same time period.
During the council’s Dec. 6 meeting, Mayor Edward Bettencourt said property values now total $7.9 billion. “This explosive growth is unprecedented in our city’s history,” he said.
Bettencourt said two- and three-family homes reflect the largest increase in property values at 18.9 percent. In addition, the value of single-family homes increased by 8.4 percent and condominiums rose by eight percent. He also said commercial values are up by 3.9 percent and industrial values have risen by 6.6 percent.
“Our growth has been driven by the continued investment in our city that we have made together,” said Bettencourt.
As a result, he said, the city has been able to purchase four new fire trucks as well as add more firefighting positions. Bettencourt said the city’s five fire stations now have at least three firefighters including one officer. He also said the planning and design process is now underway for the $11 million Central Street Improvement Project. In addition, Bettencourt reminded the council that earlier this year, Peabody was ranked as the fifth hottest zip code in the nation by Realtor.com.
“People are talking about Peabody,” he said.
However, Ward 1 Councillor Jon Turco questioned the fairness of this year’s assessment process, saying the homes in South Peabody were “hit pretty hard.” “For a home value to go up in 12 months $110,000 or $130,000 – it doesn’t seem realistic to me,” he said. “I’m just wondering if that’s a real number.”
Councillor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin said payments in lieu of taxes from the hospitals and nonprofit organizations have not kept pace with the city’s tax rate. While that is true, Bettencourt said, Lahey Medical Center and Boston Children’s at Peabody have continued to make contributions to the student-based health center at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School. Manning-Martin said she appreciated the contributions from the two hospitals and asked that the donation amounts be included in the city’s financial documents.
However, she said spending is still too high. “I do think we need to pump the brakes a little bit, save more, spend less and show a little more fiscal constraint moving forward,” she said.
Looking at the tax rates of surrounding communities, Beverly has a residential rate of $13.60 and a commercial rate of $25.72; Salem’s residential rate is $15.38 and its commercial rate is $29.97; Danvers has a residential rate of $13.28 and a commercial rate of $21.18; and Lynn has residential rate of $15.15 and a commercial rate of $29.45.