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New England News

Pittsfield Will Send Out Redesigned Property Tax Bills

After 15 years of complaints, Pittsfield officials will be sending out a tax bill to property owners with a fresh look this month. 

City Financial Director Matt Kerwood says it took Pittsfield’s new tax collector Lisa Lewis’s fresh pair of eyes to come up with a new look for the 2018 actual property tax bill.

“A lot of the information on it, and a lot of information that was redundant, wasn’t really in the right place, wasn’t as user-friendly as we wanted to achieve,” Kerwood says.

All information required by law – the assessed owner, property valuation, tax rate and special assessment – remains on the bill.

Two coupons are now prominently featured on the bottom of the bill for remittances, Lewis says. She started as tax collector in February. 

“The two main modifications you’ll notice on the tax bill are the Community Preservation surcharge and the Assessor’s Office phone number,” Lewis says. So, if taxpayers are just inquiring or have questions just regarding their assessed value, they now have their direct line.”

There is a new surcharge to cover the Community Preservation Act, which was approved via statewide ballot referendum in November 2016. The average single-family home valued at $181,000 will pay $16.21 a year for the surcharge.

Property owners will get the tax bill by mail the first week in January. Third quarter payments are due February 1st; fourth quarter payments, May 1st. Tax and assessments for the average household total about $3,817.

Residents will see an additional $38 per $100,000 of assessed value on their annual tax bill next year – or 1.94 percent more. Commercial property owners will pay $20 more per $100,000. That’s 0.5 percent more.

Financial Director Kerwood says the tax bill’s redesign came at no additional cost to the city.

“I think this will go a long way in our effort to, again, modernize and improve city government, to make us more transparent, much more user-friendly as a service to the taxpayers,” Kerwood says.

Compared to municipalities of similar size, Pittsfield, the Berkshires’ largest city, is on par for residential property tax rates.

In nearby Lenox, residents with the average home valued at nearly $401,000 will pay $34 more. Lanesborough is sticking with a single-tax rate, so residents with the average home valued at roughly $222,000 will pay an additional $200 on their tax bill.

In North Adams, Massachusetts’ smallest city, the average single-family home assessed at $138,300 will see another $123 on the tax bill. North Adams has the fifth-highest commercial tax rate in the state – $39.85 per $1,000 valuation.

Outgoing Mayor Richard Alcombright says it’s time for residents to take on a slightly higher tax rate, leading to the recent adjustment.

“You know, if you are trying to promote business development it makes it difficult. And when your neighboring town of Adams, for instance, has a tax rate of 45 percent less than you, it makes a difference in who might get the business,” Alcombright says.

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