Homeowner Property Taxes to Rise After Council Vote

Haverhill City Councilor Michael S. McGonagle.

Haverhill City Councilor Michael S. McGonagle.

Fiorentini Says Veto Possible

Homeowners will see an increase in their property taxes, while businesses will see taxes drop after city councilors voted Tuesday night not to shift more of the tax burden to commercial and industrial property owners.

By a vote of 6 to 3, councilors held to a 156 classification factor. The motion was made by Councilor Michael S. McGonagle and seconded by Councilor Melinda E. Barrett—both owners of Merrimack Street businesses. An attempt to shift more of the tax burden to businesses, a 158 factor, proposed by Councilor William H. Ryan and seconded by Councilor Robert H. Scatamacchia, failed 7-2. Councilors also also voted not to blunt the increase by using $500,000 in reserves to reduce taxes. McGonagle, who spearheaded the discussion to keep the current balance, said the tax increase amounts to half of last year’s increase.

“Even if we left this at 156, the citizens are basically getting half the percentage increase that they got the year before…And if we went one step forward up to 157, it would be a 1.9 (percent) increase for single family. I think we have it pretty good here,” McGonagle said.

Following the meeting, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he might veto the council’s action, preferring a 157  factor and the use of reserves.

City Assessor Stephen C. Gullo told WHAV Wednesday the average single-family residential tax bill will rise by $88 over last year to $4,202. The average single-family valuation increased by 1.4 percent to $271,645. The average commercial property tax will decrease by $126 this year to $15,410. Average commercial property values fell by 1.5 percent over last year to $571,169.

Council President John A. Michitson believed holding to the same factor would help draw new businesses and revenues to the city to “lower the tax rate for both residents and commercial.”

“It is hard. You need incentives. We haven’t differentiated ourselves yet out there. We have a long way to go. And I think keeping it at 156 is just a teeny, tiny step forward for economic development,” Michitson said.

In an online post at WHAV.net Tuesday, Haverhill resident and economist Demet Haksever said actual dollar amount increases is what city councilors should consider. “Unless there has been a big decline in the commercial property values, 157 doesn’t seem to be a fair shift percentage shift to me. Even then, a more equitable shift percentage that will distribute the tax burden more evenly between those two groups would be 159 or 160. For example, at 159, average residential property owner would pay $42 more (which is a 1 percent increase) from last year and commercial property owner would pay $85 more (which is only a .5 percent increase) compared to 2015.

Reacting to the council vote, Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Stacey L. Bruzzese told WHAV the Chamber agrees “increasing taxes on commercial real estate at a time of high vacancy is counterintuitive.”

“Creating demand for our commercial spaces will drive increased revenues to the city by increasing values.   Council's vote is consistent with the progress being made in our downtown and will play a part in the overall prosperity of the city, which will benefit all,” Bruzzese said. A local business owner said the best way to reduce residential taxes is to encourage more businesses to move to Haverhill.

“If you tax commercial property at more than 50 percent of the residential rate, what happens? Commercial property becomes residential, said Jeff Linehan, president of Diversified Business Systems, 144 Hilldale Ave. He said the end result of losing business property is “residents are actually paying for all the costs. They have almost 90 percent of the burden. If Haverhill were to add just 2 percent more in commercial property, the city would pick up almost $2 million in revenue—all of which would be given back to the residents and make Haverhill more affordable to live,” he said.

Also councilors, as they have done historically, accepted 100 percent of the consumer price index (CPI) increase of 1.63 percent, as reported by the Commonwealth, for Fiscal Year 2016 exemptions. They also voted unanimously to reject other motions to permanently adopt the annual CPI increase for elderly homeowner exemptions as well as exemptions for commercial and residential properties and an open space discount.

After the council vote on the use of reserves fell short, Fiorentini, in an online statement, “thank and commended” Councilors Robert H. Scatamacchia, William H. Ryan, Thomas Sullivan, Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien and Colin F. LePage for “standing with the taxpayers of this city and voting … to keep Haverhill taxes low and keep Haverhill affordable.”

“Unfortunately, six votes were required. My proposal was defeated. Residential taxes, sadly, will go up by more than I believe they should.” Fiorentini said.

9 thoughts on “Homeowner Property Taxes to Rise After Council Vote

  1. Sounds like the mayor is a tad upset.. To bad!! I like how he focuses on the same businesses in the city. At the end of the day there are few to no new businesses coming here. As a matter of fact they are leaving… Sorry folks illegal barbershops and nail salons don’t cut it…
    No matter how you look at it, for what we pay we do get quite a bit. Plus where else can you go and get a good comedy show every Tuesday and every other Thursday..

  2. I have owned my house, here in haverhill 15 years. Since I purchased it the taxes have nearly tripled. The services have decreased. Water and sewer have increased considerably. These actions are driving people out, and leaving empty store fronts. Lets think with a different cap folks.

    • Welcome to the Fiorentini dream city Dee. He has gotten rid of just about everyone in city govt. and hires people that agree to do two jobs…so neither gets done correctly while he micromanages every detail. Crisis management is the norm now where you wait until an issue becomes a ‘crisis” to act, guaranteeing the outcome you wish to have because there is no other alternative. Smart politically, the Mayor’s jig is up. People are starting to realize what is going on. Soon, they will get hit with huge water increases due to the city putting off the treatment plant upgrades. You think your taxes are high ? Wait until you get those water bills ! Can you say “Ghost town”? Businesses will be fleeing the city faster than the mayor grabs a free donut !

  3. I agree with Jeff. The Chamber of Commerce should be named the Chamber of Collusion. Why should that agency have anything to say? No one in the city votes for them they a private enterprise. They drain resources for their own pocket. We all know that new business isn’t coming here. We can’t even get Verizon to bring Fios here because they view everyone in Haverhill as being too poor/low class to afford it. All we can look forward to is used clothing stores and pizza joints and of course another bank, just what we need. I’m thankful I live on the edge of town and can avoid most of the city, its’ roads and the creatures who live here.

  4. i’d just like to know what we are getting for our increase? We spend outrageous amounts in the school budget for administrators, and new citizens don’t want to send their kids to the Haverhill school system. Our city is overrun with drugs and our police don’t seem to be able to handle the situation. Every time we turn around some fee or other is either increased or added to our tax burden. Our streets are a mess. Have you driven down Water St since it was repaved? Manholes are already 4-5 inches below grade, and that seems to be a common problem here, no one in Public works seems to know how to raise the to grade.Tax reductions and fee reductions for contractors and developers and too bad for our taxpayers. This administration has really done nothing for the citizens only those with money.

    • “i’d just like to know what we are getting for our increase?” – Take a look at the city debt service payments over the years to find out where it goes. Also, don’t look at employees benefit costs (or cost of government in general), all fingers are crossed that “the market” doesn’t have another 2008 hiccup. Thanks Fed!

      “new citizens don’t want to send their kids to the Haverhill school system” – No one in their right mind wants to send their kids to the schools here. Unfortunately, those of us that tried (I have) run into logistical nightmares (no transportation through school choice), or, most of the schools you would want to send your kids to don’t accept school choice or are full. Or, since the city is so poor, most can’t afford to send kids to private schooling. Sadly, it’s not really the teachers fault who have to end up playing fill-in parent for students because so many are poor or have no parental guidance at home. Filling the city with Section 8 has consequences, look no further than our classrooms. Teachers have no choice but to teach at levels of the slowest kid in the class, taking away time and resources from the rest. It should be no wonder why teachers leave for better pay and better teaching environment/students. Throw in the invaders in this city, the schools end up being filled with illiterate kids (and their parents) in their own language, never mind English. Maybe Mayor Jim can champion Rep. Seth Moulton and get some Syrian invaders brought into the city? That should boost not only productivity, but school scores too! Don’t worry if one of them wants to blow up the school, that’s an anecdote.

      “city is overrun with drugs and our police don’t seem to be able to handle the situation.” – Supply & Demand. Americans love their drugs, and with today’s price discovery, there’s plenty more drugs no matter how many they arrest. They will never win and should just expend their resources focusing on violent crimes or other quality of life issues. The “War on Drugs” is an abject failure.

      “Every time we turn around some fee or other is either increased or added to our tax burden” – That’s Mayor Jimmy’s M.O. However, it is also due to a poor city that can’t pay it’s own bills in the first place. Only through Brian Dempsey’s legal larceny does this city even function, and that’s on top of the ridiculously stupid deficit spending.

      “Our streets are a mess.” – Short of major construction, you’re own your own. Sweep and clean up, along with your neighbors, that’s what we do. If you see trash in your neighbors yard, take the initiative and grab it for them. My neighbors, even if I don’t align with some of them politically, are pretty awesome and we look after each other. Except for that one dude with all his shades drawn 100% of the time…

      “Public works” – That department in general has a colorful history. Having first hand experience with a few of them, there’s a few misogynistic pigs employed there as well. Crazy that some of us are married to engineers, and not to women that are “barefoot and in the kitchen.” Although, I shouldn’t complain, after repaving the street, it only took three (3) years to get a crosswalk put back. Better late than never right?

      “This administration has really done nothing for the citizens only those with money.” – The city, much like this state, and to an extent our equally corrupted federal government is “pay-to-play”. Take a quick glance at how contracts and bids are handed out, like the trash company or the no-bid builder of Harbor Place just to cite a couple. Pay-to-play players for sure, but not enough care quite frankly. Voters sure as heck don’t, but I’ll concede Mayor Jimmy hasn’t had much competition. Even if he had, Brian Dempsey could easily destroy his replacement in one-term simply by not stealing state funds. You don’t think the state with the highest income disparity in the country is coincidence do you? You will be taxed and fee’d to death, while most People’s incomes continue to crash, the money is staying in a tight circle of connected cronies and there won’t be any “leakage” of those monies… Serf.

      So Mayor Jimmy it is! So I hope you like cake, because that is all that is on the menu.