The annual tax classification hearing will be held tonight, Tuesday, November 12, at 7:05pm at the Board of Selectman meeting in Town Hall. The tax classification determines what share of the total tax burden will be paid by residential versus commercial taxpayers.
According to Town Assessor, Cynthia Cosgrove during last year’s hearing, “The tax classification determines how we shift the tax burden between property classes” explained Cosgrove. “This does not determine the tax rate or how much can be raised.”
The tax rate for fiscal 2020 currently stands at $18.44 per $1,000 in property value for homeowners, and $24.18 for commercial property.
Auburn has had a dual tax rate since 1988. The Board of Selectmen, at the urging of Auburn business leaders, had been steadily narrowing the difference between what businesses and residents pay, with the goal being to eventually realize a single tax rate. From 2006-2014, the Boards of Selectmen reduced the shift incrementally each year. However, in 2015 and 2016, Selectmen left the shift unchanged at 1.22. In 2017, the Selectmen voted to further narrow the residential/commercial gap by moving the split to 1.2, and in 2018 selectmen narrowed the gap again to 1.7.
Auburn and Worcester are the only area communities with a dual tax rate for business and residential property. A reduction in the tax classification shift would result in higher tax bills for residents and lower tax bills for commercial property owners.
The Auburn Chamber of Commerce has used the higher commercial tax as a primary reason that businesses leave Auburn, or that they do not locate here at all. The Chamber would ultimately like to see a single tax rate for Auburn residents and businesses.
In a letter sent to members, the Chamber stated, “While we know that a single rate will not happen overnight, your actions in continuing to move the rates closer shows your support for not only the business community but the Auburn community as a whole.”
Representation by Auburn residents has been anemic, at best. In 2018, there were three residents and close to a dozen Chamber representatives. Only one resident spoke on behalf of maintaining the residential – commercial shift at 1.2.