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Tax Increases for most Lowell Homeowners

According to an article in the Lowell Sun Most Lowell Homeowners will see Property tax increases.

LOWELL -- Belmont Avenue is the toniest street in the city, home to two of the city's three million-dollar homes.But with the spoils of wealth come the burden of increased property taxes.

The 17-home street, which runs from Wyman Street to Whitman Street in the city's Belvidere section, saw a collective tax increase of $16,412 this year, bringing the street's total bill to $152,198. Each homeowner will pay an average of $8,952, an average of $965 more in property taxes than last year, the sharpest increase of any street citywide.

At the other end of the spectrum, Arlene Road, off Walker Street in the city's Lower Highlands section, a street of 21 single-family ranch-style homes, saw its collective tax bill decrease by $4,682 to $54,403. The average homeowner will pay $2,590 in taxes this year, $222 less than last year.

Overall, 9,636 of the city's 11,762 single-family homeowners, or 82 percent, will see an increase in their property-tax bill this year, with the remaining 2,126 realizing a decrease in their tabs.

City homeowners pay $13.27 per $1,000 of property value. Values are driven by the real-estate market. According to guidelines set by the state Department of Revenue's Division of Local Assessment, the city's assessors analyzed single-family home sales from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2009. Residential values are set based on "full and fair value," according to factors including type of home, age, neighborhood and recent sales.

"The only dissimilarity between this current year and past years in this update process was that we had to take short sales into consideration, across all classes of property," Chief Assessor Susan LeMay wrote in a memo to City Manager Bernie Lynch.

(A short sale is usually a pre-foreclosure sale in which the sale price is less than the total owed against the real estate.)

"This inclusion was necessary because there were relatively few arm's length sales compared to prior years," LeMay's memo continued. She added that "the bottom line is that the assessments, whether residential, multi-unit, commercial or industrial are driven by the real estate market in any given year."

This year's analysis led to a collective loss of value of just $156,000 on Belmont Avenue, compared to a loss of $959,000 on Arlene Road, which explains the swing in tax bills, as the city's tax rate was increased from $11.68 to $13.27 per $1,000 of property value. The average home on Belmont Avenue is assessed at $674,641, a loss of value since last year of $9,182; the average home on Arlene Road is assessed at $195,224, a loss of value of $45,667 since last year.

The single-family home with the highest assessed value is also the home that will be paying the largest tax increase. The house at 250 Westview Road, off Pine Street, in the city's Highlands section owned by Joseph McNamee, is valued at $1,185,900. The tax bill for the parcel is $15,737, an increase of $2,331.76, or 14.8 percent.

The two other homes in the city valued at more than $1 million are on Belmont Avenue: 99 Belmont Ave., owned by John H. Pearson Jr., is valued at $1,042,200; and 52 Belmont Ave., owned by Nancy Donahue, is valued at $1,016,600. The single-family home that saw its tax bill slashed the most is the house at 105 Lauriat St., off Princeton Boulevard in the Highlands. In the last year, the 115-year-old, six-room home lost $117,100 in value, falling to $207,200, which in turn cut the tax bill by $1,038 to $2,749. The average single-family home in Lowell is valued at $231,515 and carries a property-tax bill of $3,072.20, an increase of $131.86 over last year.

This year marks the first year the average single-family tax bill in the city has topped $3,000.The city's average, single-family tax bill has increased 7.5 percent from 2008-2010, compared to a 29 percent increase from 2005 to 2007. During the 2005-2007 period, the residential tax levy increased from $53,979,232 to $65,690,730, or 21.7 percent. Since that time, the residential levy has increased to $70,331,492, a 7.1 percent increase over the past three years.

The City Council's finance subcommittee will meet Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m., in the Council Chamber at City Hall to discuss property values.

Sadia Raheem can be found on Facebook

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