Tuesday, December 7, 2010

FM #79 - Slidecast - Tax Hearing Info for FY 2011

This internet radio show or podcast is number 79 in the series for Franklin Matters.

In this session, you give me about ten minutes (actually 13 in this case) and I'll fill you in on what matters in Franklin.

Show notes:

In particular, we'll prepare for the Town Council meeting Wednesday, Dec 8th, where the big item on the agenda will be the annual tax classification hearing beginning at 7:10 PM.

This is the time and place where the Town Council determines (1) to keep a single tax rate or decides to implement a split tax rate and (2) sets the actual rate.

I have reviewed the data provided by the Board of Assessors for this hearing. I have also spent some time on the Dept of Revenue website updating my files with historical data on Franklin's budget, tax rate, etc.

I have updates last year's slides to share information that I think will help us all understand the overall situation.

Page 2 shows how the tax rate is calculated. Starting with the levy limit from 2010, 2.5% is added. Based upon Prop 2.5%, up to this amount can be added without a special override election. The growth from last year is added. This provides a subtotal. Any prior debt exclusions are added and this provides the maximum levy limit. We can technically achieve this due to rounding factors on the rates. So we have what they call an “excess levy capacity” of $35, 647. This leaves us with the tax levy, the amount that Franklin is authorized to raise this year. The amount is divided by the total assessed values of all the residential, commercial, industrial and personal property.

The package has a number of pages devoted to the property analysis of the residential, CIP to get to this value. The major factor to remember is that due to the overall economic conditions, property values are declining. Divide any number by a declining number and the percent will increase.

Page 3 shows the tax rate as it has varied throughout the years from 1988 to 2011. I really shouldn't use a line to depict the point in time number for each year, but it is much easier to view the data this way. The tax rate high point was in 1997 when it was 14.21% and the low point (in the period shown) was 8.86% in 2007. I find it interesting that the tax rate dropped for ten years in a row (from its peak in 1997), has gone up for the past 4 years, and yet all you hear about is our tax problem?

There are many reasons for the increases shown. I don't have all the information to explain nor do I have the time this week to do so. What I can show on Page 4 is how the assessed value effects the tax rate. The reddish bars in this case depict the NET change in assessed total value of all the properties in Franklin. Since 2006 the commercial industrial assessed values have been in a decline. In 2006 and 2007, the new grown for CI covered the decline in valuation so there was a net grown for CI. But for 2008, 2009, 2010 and for FY 2011, the new growth has not been able to cover the decline in valuation. More importantly, on the residential side, the decline in valuation has far exceeded the new growth. Hence the overall decline in total assessed values has dropped from 4.9 billion in 2007 to 4.1 billion for FY 2011. With less of a tax base upon which to levy the same amount of tax revenue, guess what, the tax rate will increase. The decline in overall assessed values has driven the increase for 2008, 2009, 2010 and will do so again in 2011.

Well, Page 5 more clearly shows what our tax problem is. The numbers on this chart depict the average tax bill for the period 1988 through 2010. As you can see from the reddish bars, in no year did the average tax bill decrease. The tax rate line from Page 4 is also shown here. Clearly, the tax rate whether it goes up or down seems to have little effect on the tax bill. It is always going up.

Page 6 - shows a table showing the residential vs. commercial/industrial property mix since 1999. It has varied a little each year but generally around 80% residential and 20% commercial/industrial. The high point for residential was 82.12 in 1988 and the low point was 77.04 in 1993.

Page 7 shows the same numbers in a chart format. As there is so little variance, I think this more clearly depicts the small range that the commercial/industrial and residential split has had over the years.

Why did I spend time on the CI vs Residential split? I can hear some folks now saying “let's go with a split tax rate”. With kind of property mix we have, a split tax does not solve our problem. See, the split tax does not increase overall tax revenues, it only shifts the proportion of the pie that each party pays as shown on Page 8. For a single dollar decrease in residential property tax, the CI increase would need to be $4. We don't need to shift the tax burden from one to another. We need to grow the overall tax base. We need a bigger pie.

The best opportunities for grow come from the underutilized CI space we have. You should be aware of the efforts of Bryan Taberner and others in the Department of Planning and Community Development. The Economic Summit held at the former Putnam facility on Washington is a key example of this effort. They are busy working to market the attractiveness of Franklin for CI uses. This is where we need to develop. We don't need additional residential properties which would further burden the school system. In particular, the residential growth we have seen recently has been mostly in the rental unit arena and that is even worse for Franklin than a single family home. We need healthy growth in CI properties to provide tax revenues and provide some jobs for local residents.

Page 9 provides information on the sources of the data that I used to prepare this.
Page 10 provides my contact information if you have any questions or would like to review this further.

One page in the appendix that charts the “free cash” to “free cash as a percent of the overall Town budget. I think the current administration has done very well in reducing the fluctuations that can be seen over the years. The big spike in FY 2001 I believe is likely related to the settlement that the Town won. It ended up in “free cash” before the Town Council moved it to the Stabilization Fund.

For the week ahead:

Town Council meeting Wednesday

Cyberbullying event at Dean College on Thursday. Perry Aftab and the teenangels from the Franklin School District will be presenting an information for parents on bullying.

I would encourage you to participate in these events.

Thank you for listening!

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana" c. Michael Clark and Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission

I hope you enjoy!

Note: email subscribers will need to click through to Franklin Matters to view this slidecast.

Franklin, MA