Are Your Property Taxes Going Up Next Year? Find Out Here.

David Bates / March 5, 2012-12:44 pm

If you wonder where your town is getting all the money to run the government, take a look at your property tax bill.

In Boston, property taxes fund more than 65% of the budget. In Brookline, more than 75%. In Newton, nearly 85%. The odds are, your town budget receives a similar percentage of its revenue directly from the property taxes it collects.

Rising revenue from the property tax levy seems almost as certain as “death and taxes.” Although the annual increase in property taxes is governed by Proposition 2½, according to the Boston city budget, “The property tax levy has been the City’s largest and most dependable source of revenue growth.” Today, the city is generating more than $1.5 billion in property tax revenues.

Increased revenue from property taxes is a sure thing in towns outside of Boston too. For example, between 1999 and 2013, revenue from property taxes in Brookline went from $92.2 million to $169 million (estimated) and increased every year. In fact, between 2004 and 2013 (estimated), the general fund budget total grew $57.1 million and the real estate property tax contribution to it grew $55.6 million. In other words, property taxes funded 97% of the increase.

In boom times, properties’ values appreciate and so the amount of property taxes they generate increase too. Also in boom times new properties are developed and taxed. But if you think property taxes will go down in the bust years, think again. To increase revenue in a down market, all lawmakers have to do is change the rate at which property is taxed. When there was a hubbub about the City of Boston raising property taxes in a down market, a Revenue Department spokesman responded, “it’s always been that way, even if values go down, taxes go up…It’s like saying that it’s extraordinary that the sun rises every day”(Boston Real Estate Law News in January 2011). The same is true outside the city. In the most tumultuous economic year in recent times, 2009, the Brookline property tax levy increased 8.5%. That’s about double Brookline’s average annual increase.

So in answer to the headline: Yes!