FRAMINGHAM - Framingham City Councilors voted in favor of shifting tax rates for the upcoming fiscal year, signaling a tick up for homeowners and a reprieve for owners of commercial, industrial, and personal property during their meeting Tuesday night.
Following a recent recommendation by the council’s Financial Subcommittee, councilors voted 10-1 in favor of the motion to shift the Commercial, Industrial, and Personal (CIP) rate by just under .01%, to a mark of 1.69%. The motion to balk at any exemptions for business, open space, and residential purposes was also approved. With Framingham’s split tax rate system, this shifts part of the tax burden away from the CIP sector and onto the residential sector.
At-Large City Councilor George King, the Chair of the Finance Subcommittee, voted against the measure.
Local business leaders, such as co-owner of Herb Connolly Chevrolet and head of the Framingham Business Association Chris Connolly, praised the shift.
“We’ve been working on this for years, trying to make Framingham more competitive in terms of having a commercial tax rate that’s more affordable for small business owners,” Connolly said during the public hearing at the Memorial Building on the matter held during the City Council’s meeting.
“We want to attract people to Framingham.”
“To stay competitive, it’s a small amount and a small shift to show the business community that the City of Framingham cares,” Chair of the City Council Phil Ottaviani of District 6 added.
The vote came following a presentation from the city’s Chief Assessor Edward O’Neil, as the new tax rates for the upcoming fiscal year were being addressed alongside Framingham’s five-year property revaluation. That presentation showed that property values across the city have risen compared to fiscal year 2023; residential values were up by 12.4%, while commercial, industrial, and personal properties saw bumps of 5.2%, 10.7%, and 6.1% respectively.
O’Neil outlined that Framingham has about $14.4 billion worth of taxable property value in total, with the exempt real property value sitting at roughly $1.65 billion.
Still, the city’s anticipation for FY2024 is the lowest levels of new growth since FY2017. In turn, there was confusion among the City Council: the anticipated tax levy growth for the next fiscal year was originally expected to be about $214.7 million prior to the meaning, though O’Neil offered updated figures showing that same total at roughly $216.4 million.
“We raise the levy based on how much we spend, which is why our affordability is based on two factors: what our commercial growth is, what our new growth is…and what we spend,” District 8 City Councilor John Stefanini explained to attendees.
“So we’re raising what we spend, and the number we had in here is lower than what we spent, because our estimates were higher than what we actually brought in…So that money has to be made up somewhere, so it was raised in the levy.”
When asked by District 4 City Councilor Michael Cannon how that new discovery could impact the average Framingham taxpayer, O’Neil noted a 10 cent residential increase alongside a 20 cent increase for CIP properties.
“It’s a significant dollar amount, but on the tax rate itself, it’s 10 cents and 20 cents,” O’Neil said.
Still, Cannon continued to express surprise that the finding came relatively recently in this tax process.
“I’m hopeful that we’re cognizant also of the fact that this is the most expensive time to live and operate a business in Framingham, and we don’t seem to be—up until now—taking that seriously,” Cannon continued.
O’Neil noted that a surplus within the city could aid in ant concerns related to the fact that the five-year reevaluation looms, though Stefanini raised concerns regarding commercial values based on income in the post-COVID landscape. King also issued warnings going forward that even without major budget changes being voted on this month, all participants within the city government should be aware of available money on hand not being as vast as it was in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, when state and federal programs were offering resources to municipalities across the nation. He added that fact should be considered when approving the future city budget in 2024.
“I hope we try to keep in mind: let’s spend this money as efficiently as we possibly can and not have a spending problem, and really look at ways that we can find efficiencies so that we can continue to make Framingham affordable,” King said.
“Because with these levels of tax increases, it’s not going to be.”
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