Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Follow-up on the Harvard Town financials

In my last post, I studied our town finances, taking a look at historical income and spending.  But I still wondered, how many people would be seriously affected by an increase in the property tax rates? I took a look at this, using the town assessor's property valuations - the base for our tax revenue in Harvard.

Here is a graph of said property valuations from the assessor's office (the assessor's office provided the values. I created the graph, so don't blame town hall for the graph). This is public information, in case you wonder.

About 14% of the values fall below 100K - probably secondary buildings and smaller property parcels. Starting from there, though, you can see about half the town has property value below 500K. About 90% have valuations below 750K. At the far end, we have about a dozen properties valued over 1.5M. Several of those are businesses. This graph doesn't show government or non-profit (untaxed) properties.

The 2010 census tells us we have a shade over 2,000 households in town. The property count over 100K is about 2100 - so I think this gives us a pretty good view.

Next, let's convert these numbers to what we pay in taxes. So I ran some simple numbers. I started with 2011, and raised the property tax the maximum allowable amount through 2020. It turns out that for about half the town, the forecast tax hike over that 9 year timeframe would be 2,000 dollars or less. Until you hit 780K of property value, you are still under an added 3K tax per year. I can't say exactly based on these numbers, but at least 80% of our community is below that line, and it could be more than 90%. 780K falls at the 92nd percentile of the property valuations.

I also found a source for a few more historical years of tax rates - back to 1985. The rate at that time was just over $13 per 1,000 of value. This tells me that to see the rate where it is today is not really unusual, even historically. We are about to enter "unusual" territory, as our rates today are higher than they have been. But again, when the dollar impact is examined, the actual cost is, to me, surprisingly low, all things considered.

I realize the quality when posted is not ideal.  If you want the original graphs, just email me. I'll send them to you.

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