City Assessor Answers Frequently Asked Questions About Property Taxes

Municipal taxation in Massachusetts has many rules and regulations that are designed around the Proposition 2 ½ tax guidelines passed in 1980. A revenue cap of 2 ½ % is placed on the City of Melrose’s total property tax levy from the previous year. The only exceptions to the rules are new growth, override votes, and debt exclusion votes. The City can raise last year’s total property tax levy by new growth and 2 ½ %. Highlighted below are a few of the common questions that the Assessing Department answers about municipal taxation and the assessment process.

The $2.25 million dollar tax override vote did not pass in the fall of 2015. Can the City raise the assessed values in order to capture an additional $2.25 million in tax dollars?

No. That is illegal and cannot be done. The City of Melrose must use the budget that is passed by the Board of Aldermen in the previous spring and must be compliant with the Proposition 2 ½ laws (see above). If an override vote fails, additional revenues cannot be collected by increasing the assessed value of the City. This would be illegal.

An inspector from Patriot Properties has come to my house to “collect data.” Does this mean that my taxes will increase? Why is the Melrose Assessing Department inspecting my property?

Every nine years, by Massachusetts General Law, the Assessing Department must inspect every property in the City to make sure that our records are accurate. 2016 is the ninth year. The City of Melrose has contracted Patriot Properties to inspect every residential parcel. The inspectors are performing a quality check of the current assessment data. For the most part the assessment data does not change but if we find inaccuracies, we will make an adjustment.

Home values are skyrocketing in the City of Melrose. Does the City of Melrose municipal budget benefit from higher home values?

No. Because the total amount of taxes the City can collect is fixed by Proposition 2 ½, the budget does not increase with higher home values. As property values go up, the tax rate drops. Even if a house that is assessed at $400,000 sells for $500,000, the City does not see the benefit. Taxes are based on assessed values only. The public perception that higher home values equates to higher property taxes and higher municipal revenues is false.

How are the assessed values calculated, when do assessments change, and who approves the assessed values?

Assessments are calculated by analyzing the Melrose real estate market in the previous calendar year, and property assessments represent 100% market value by law. Assessed values change every January 1 in the third quarter of the fiscal year and must be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue before tax bills are mailed.

How can I find information about my assessed value and other assessed values in the City of Melrose?

You can find assessing information on the Melrose Assessing Department’s webpage located at http://www.cityofmelrose.org/departments/assessors-office/. The Board of Assessors recommends property owners verify assessment data every year in January. If you have any questions or concerns about your assessment or the assessment process, please contact the Melrose Assessor’s Office at (781) 979-4104.

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