A Glimpse at Changing Property Tax Tides

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Here’s an interesting milestone over here in the East Bay, as I wrote on Tiverton Fact Check

Looking at the actual comparison for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, if Budget #2wins at this week’s FTR, Tiverton’s tax rate is projected to be $15.96.  Meanwhile, the proposed budget in Portsmouth is projected to bring that town’s tax rate to $15.97, and taxpayer advocates tell Tiverton Fact Check that the proposal is likely to be accepted.

Matching Portsmouth’s rate shouldn’t be the finish line for Tiverton, but it is a major milestone.  Notably, the comparison should take some of the shackles off of the high-end real estate market in Tiverton and help to balance out the tax burden around town.

Obviously, I’m observing these tax trends in the thick of a budget battle (with voting in Tiverton’s financial town referendum going on today, tomorrow, and Saturday), but in general, it’s disappointing that we don’t have these discussions more often at the local level.  Many factors can move what might be seen as a theoretically appropriate tax rate up or down, but comparisons from town to town do make a difference.

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More importantly, we’d all be much better off (and maybe even more civil) if we were more thoroughly conversant about why various government numbers matter.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    I was near Tiverton today and saw something that makes me think I no longer know how to think about money. I was behind a large SUV which only bore the name Gemballa. Since it had six exhaust pipes, I assumed it was exotic. I just Googled it. Seems it is a custom bodied Porsche that retails at 402,000 Euro, I think that is about $500,000. I don’t even know how to think about that. It had a Mass plate “bb 7″, a notation on the plate indicates the “bb” has something to do with baseball.

  • guest

    “the high-end real estate market in Tiverton”, really Justin? What is the sample size you are talking about here? I’m going to say that it’s not statistically significant enough to draw any meaningful conclusions. But that won’t stop you, will it?

    • Justin Katz

      The top 25% of all properties on the market.

      • guest

        Which equates to a sample size of how many for your analysis?

        • Justin Katz

          About 20 properties per quartile, although that’s a point in time, so there would be more over the period of time I’m reviewing. But I think you’re missing the key point, which is that this small number of properties creates the comps by which other properties are valued, which changes relative application of the tax burden across the town.

          • guest

            So you think it’s good public policy to set tax rates for the (perceived) benefit of a few high-end homeowners?

          • Justin Katz

            I think it’s good public policy to understand how tax rates affect your community, including (in part) how they might suppress the high end and push the tax burden toward the low end.

          • guest

            So you would like to see taxes be distributed more equitably and shifted to the more affluent? Do your paymasters know about your recent shift in philosophy?

          • Justin Katz

            “Paymasters”?

            I don’t know anybody who is against equitable distribution of taxes, and it’s only fairness that people whose assets become more valuable will pay more of the tax on that value.

          • guest

            I’m only using a term you have used in the past for your secretive employer.

            You are all over the map on your tax cut justification. If high-end properties have declined in value then it’s now reflected in their valuation and hence lower taxes. All good.

            Applying circular logic to the analysis by attributing the declining values (if it’s even true) to increased taxes makes no sense without looking at all of the factors that go into real estate valuation. Believe it or not, people look at other factors other than taxes.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            When looking at commercial property, the “tax burden” is certainly considered. You must have noticed that builders of large buildings are now “taking bids” from competing cities and towns before building.

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