Sides Prepare for Tonight’s Property Tax Battle

Both sides are gearing up to do battle at tonight’s property tax classification hearing.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini took his case directly to residents in an email blast last night, arguing more of the tax burden should be shifted to businesses. To the contrary, Jeffrey G. Linehan, president of Diversified Business Systems, 144 Hilldale Ave., Haverhill, made plans to challenge the shift.

“Haverhill’s business tax base has greatly declined since the city started charging businesses more than their fair share, Linehan told WHAV. In 1976, he said, 35 percent of the tax base was industrial and commercial. “Now, it’s less than half that. If the city hadn’t lost so many businesses, homeowners would be paying far less today.” He linked the loss of businesses to the higher tax rate.

Fiorentini said he is recommending city councilors raise the classification factor for businesses from 150 to 160 percent of their value.

“Unless we take action residential property taxes will go up by $243 for the average residential taxpayer. The average industrial user will see their taxes go down by $523,” the mayor said in his email to subscribers. Even with the shift, homeowner tax bills will increase. Fiorentini, however, also suggests taking $600,000 from reserve accounts to offset spending in this year’s record $168 million budget.

Linehan also argued the commercial and industrial sector doesn’t add children to the school system or require trash pickup or many other city services. Meanwhile, the 84 percent of the city that is residential requires more classrooms and numerous services, he said.

“Most of those new condominiums are in buildings once vital to the city’s commercial base,” he said. Linehan is a director of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and also vice chairman of the Northern Essex Community College Board of Trustees.

Fiorentini said Haverhill’s business taxes are still lower than other Massachusetts cities. “Our commercial industrial rate for businesses will still be below that of other gateway cities our size such as Lawrence, Lynn and Lowell.”