From behemoth EMC to the tiny mom-and-pop shops in town, members of Southborough’s business community turned out in force last night to protest last month’s decision to tax commercial property at a higher rate than residential property. In the end, Selectmen voted 2-1 to reverse their decision and return to a single tax rate.
That means that instead of paying $16.36 per $1,000 valuation, commercial property owners will pay $15.58. Under the split rate plan originally approved, residents would have paid $15.38. Now they’ll also pay $15.58.
The average Southborough family will pay $230 more in taxes this year. Under the split rate plan they would have paid $128 more.
The Hearing Room at the Town House last night was packed with business owners. All who spoke warned of dire consequences if a higher tax rate was imposed on businesses, consequences that included companies leaving town or going out of business, and landlords having a harder time convincing new business to move to town.
Selectman Bill Boland voted in favor of a single tax rate back in October. He maintained his stance last night. Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf, who had originally voted for a split tax rate, changed her vote to favor a single rate.
The lone hold-out for a split tax rate was Selectman John Rooney who argued that residents deserved a break after shouldering a disproportionate share of the tax burden over the past decade.
But the interesting thing was, no residents turned out to speak in favor of a lower tax rate for residential property.
“I haven’t heard any residents speak in favor of a split rate,” Southborough business owner Bill Depietri said. “If they’re so concerned, why aren’t they here?”
Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said that while the board received a flood of feedback on the split tax rate from businesses, she didn’t get any calls from residents. “And that’s unusual because they call me about everything else,” she said.
So, Southborough residents, what do you think? Was the relatively small difference in the residential tax rate ($15.38 vs. $15.58) not worth fighting for? Did you agree with the business community that a split rate would hurt more than it helped? How do you feel about the tax bill you’ll pay this year?