Property Values Up, Tax Rate Down

By: Tim Wood

CHATHAM – It's certainly true that they're not making any more land. And the land that exists is getting more and more valuable; the town's total value has now topped $6.7 billion.

That's borne out by the latest data from the town's assessing department, which shows that property values have increased by 5.1 percent over last year. Although Chatham has seen numerous high-end, multi-million dollar sales, the increase in value has been across the board, according to Director of Assessing Ardelle Kelley.

The increase in total property values means that the tax rate for fiscal 2018 will also drop by 5.1 percent, from the current $5.03 to a projected $4.87. Because of that change, some owners, whose values haven't changed much, will see lower tax bills, while those whose values have increased will see a tax hike, Kelley said.

“There won't be an increase across the board because of the drop” in the tax rate, she said.

The average value of a single-family home in town is also increasing to $853,000, up from last year's $810,000. If the tax rate is certified at $4.87, the average homeowner will have an annual property tax bill of $4,154.

According to the Cape and Islands Association of Realtors, the median sales price of a home in Chatham last year was $662,500.

The new figures, which reflect values as of Jan. 1 and were certified by the state department of revenue Aug. 22, are based on new growth – construction of new homes and additions to existing homes – as well as real estate sales. Residential and open space properties saw an overall growth last year of more than $94 million, well above the three-year average of $68 million. Growth of commercial properties, at $1.1 million, showed a slow down; it was only a third of the three-year average of $3.4 million.

The overall value of commercial real estate, however, was up by more than $7 million to $288 million. That included an additional 10 properties, the result of subdivisions or the creation of condominiums, Kelley said.

Single-family homes remains by far the largest value category, with assessed values of $5.3 billion. That's up $268 million over the previous year. Residential properties account for 94 percent of the town's total value, with commercial industrial totaling 6 percent.

The total value of all residential and commercial real estate as well as personal property for fiscal 2018 is set at $6,767,129,050, up from last year's figure of $6,438,586,200.

The tax base will allow the town to levy a total of $32,955,918 in property taxes for the coming fiscal year.

The figures show that the town's real estate has regained – and surpassed – the value it lost in the 2008 economic crash. Before the crash, real estate values soared to a high of $6.4 billion in 2006. Once assessing records caught up with the drop in real estate, in 2010, values had sunk to $5.8 billion.

At a tax classification hearing Tuesday, selectmen voted to set a single tax rate rather than having separate residential and commercial rates, as has been the tradition here for decades. Given the small percentage of commercial properties, applying a separate, higher rate to them would be unfair, said Selectman Dean Nicastro.

“I don't see any need for change,” he said. He also said the town should not adopt a residential exemption, which would shift the property tax burden to non-resident owners.

“I think it has the potential for being divisive,” he said.

Resident Debbie Ecker urged the board to consider taking a deeper look at separate residential and commercial tax rates. Residents pay taxes for expenditures made necessary because of the demands created by summer businesses, such as increased police and fire coverage and greater wastewater treatment, she said.

“A case can be made that Chatham should be considering a differential tax rate for commercial property,” she said.

She suggested the board establish a committee to examine the issue.