Ordinarily, I stay out of the media criticism business. Being a journalist is a hard, thankless job, and lord knows the President of the United States does a good enough job on his own of villifying the Denizens of the Desktop without my help.
But Jesus Henry Christ, when I woke up this morning to read that the Board of Selectmen had allegedly raised the tax rate 4.72%, I nearly choked on my cereal.
No. We did NOT raise the tax rate by 4.72% as the Grafton News’ headline suggests. Grafton’s tax rate was raised from $16.59 per thousand dollars assessed value to $16.66 per thousand dollars assessed value for a whopping seven-cent increase, or in percentage terms, .42%.
This is not to say your tax bill won’t go up this year. It will. And when it does, it will be because your assessed value likely will be higher. By way of explanation, the Grafton News notes the following:
With the average single-family home in Grafton valued at $393,678, the homeowner’s total tax bill is estimated at $6,558, an increase of $296 or 4.72 percent over this year’s bill.
What the Grafton News inconveniently leaves out of that sentence is that last year, homes were valued, on average, at $377,448. So, where the average home has an increased assessed value of $16,230 (or an increase of 4.29%), that home will likely see that percentage increase in a tax bill. But there are a lot of ifs in there, and it depends on your home in particular.
So, no, the Grafton Board of Selectmen did not raise your taxes overnight by 4.72%. Relax.
If anything, you know who raised your taxes this year? You did. The culprit in ordinary, yearly tax increases is assessed value. All assessed tax values everywhere come from the Ministry of Assessment and Taxation, headed by Dolores Umbridge. She stirs her cauldron with her wand and magicly conjures your assessed value.* But all assessed values, no matter how magic they appear, are based loosely on the scientific concept of fair market value.
Fair market value, of course, is merely what someone is willing to pay for your home at any given time, taking into account supply and demand. There are things that Grafton does to artificially decrease supply, like instituting residential zoning that requires certain lot sizes. Despite constant complaints about developement, Grafton does a pretty good job making sure that people who want to move here pay as much as possible for their homes.
And then there is demand. This is more subjective from the demander’s point of view. Why would someone want to buy your house? I’m sure it’s lovely, but there are lovely homes everywhere. But Grafton offers great schools, reasonable taxes, reasonable home prices, and a friendly community.
In short, it’s an attractive place to live. So your home value increases, and your taxes along with it. While I’m sure there are things you could do to change that, I don’t think you’d want to.
I know I don’t.
*I’ve never received a fair explanation on the relationship between assessed value and fair market value, so, honestly, this is reasonably on point as far as I know.