By Mayor Carlo DeMaria
I recently announced that the City of Everett has been ranked second only to Chelsea as having the lowest single family residential tax bill in the Greater Boston region, according to a fiscal 2019 property tax report from the City of Boston Assessing Department. As mayor I am committed to continuing that trend.
On Monday November 25, I presented recommendations to the Everett City Council regarding the tax rate. At that meeting I recommended the following steps:
•Utilize the $7 million dollars we have been able to accumulate over the past year through conservative budgetary management, responsible financial forecasting, and fiscal responsibility to reduce the burden on taxpayers.
•Provide owner occupants with a 25 percent tax exemption.
•Shift a portion of the total tax burden from residential to commercial, ensuring residents pay only the minimum amount allowed by law.
I am proud to say the Everett City Council voted to accept all of my recommendations. I truly appreciate their partnership in honoring our commitment to the residents of this great city.
There are very few communities that can put $7 million dollars to tax relief and Everett is the exception. This has happened because we have all worked hard to build our economy. We have attracted new hotels such as the EnVision and the Encore Resort. We have changed our zoning to attract new developments like the Pioneer, the Batchyard and Wellington Apartments and we have aggressively marketed our commercial and industrial sector.
As a result we have seen a dramatic increase in revenue and these revenues will continue to grow into the future. This past year alone we received an additional $25 million in revenue from the newly opened Encore Resort and have also seen our meals and room taxes increase by 300 percent. Next year, a tax agreement with our largest taxpayer in 2017, Exelon Power, will expire and that will allow us to tax the plant at its full value.
All of this growth has allowed us to reduce property taxes on our residents and commercial business. Even though property values have increased dramatically, residents will see their property taxes actually drop this year.
By law communities can only raise taxes by 2.5 percent annually or by increasing revenue through new growth. However, most communities have not experienced the new growth Everett has. Many communities have reached their total tax levy limit and have been forced to pass 2.5 percent overrides. The tax levy is the money that can be raised through property taxes to pay for such things as schools, police, fire and infrastructure. Because of new growth and conservative budgeting our total tax levy has dropped by 16%. We would have to spend approximately $50 million in one year to hit our levy limit.
This tax relief is affordable and achievable. Standard and Poor’s has given us one of their highest ratings. Our operating surpluses, our very strong liquidity, our low overall net debt, and formal five year long-term capital projections show that we can also meet our infrastructure needs. S&P also highlighted the continued growth of our commercial and industrial sector and positive outlook for the future. Because of new growth we can continue to invest in our parks, our schools, in public safety and in our waterfront.
I am happy to report that our water and sewer rates are the eighth-lowest out of the 56 MWRA communities, we do not impose trash fees, we have dozens of free events for our residents every year and we do not have fees to participate in school sports.
Along with the current strong fiscal position, we are also committed to fully funding future obligations. The annual appropriation for the retirement system is currently one of the highest in the Commonwealth and we are on track to fully funding the system by 2030. We will also continue to fund other post-employment benefits such as health and life insurance, and we will increase that appropriation once the retirement system is fully funded.
Our school finances are also in great shape and I want to thank Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Joseph McGonagle for their work in providing a significant increase in Chapter 70 school funding. A new school funding bill, negotiated by the House and the Senate, was signed by Governor Baker just last week.
We are a great community. A community that strives to help one another every day. I am honored and humbled to be your mayor. As we enter the holiday season let us all be thankful for what have been blessed with. Happy Holidays!
Carlo DeMaria is the Mayor of Everett.