Councilor-at-Large John Hanlon had requested Mayor Carlo DeMaria, City Assessor B.J. Devereux and Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas to appear at a Council meeting to discuss “why the real estate taxes have gone up so much in the past year.”
Hanlon, a former mayor, pressed the three officials for several minutes, asking “how the city managed to increase our taxes in the middle of the year.”
“The taxes were set at the beginning of our year and that’s what it’s supposed to be for the whole year – why and how did it get changed, that’s what I want to know,” Hanlon asked.
“The taxes are always finalized in November or early November,” responded Devereux. “The bills that are sent out in July and August, those are preliminary bills – they’re just based on what was billed the prior fiscal year. By the time November comes around, our values have been approved by the state, the Finance Department has made their projections on what the tax levy to needs to be to run the City, and that’s when we run all those numbers to come up with the actual tax rate.”
Hanlon inquired about the devaluation of the Everett-based electric company (Exelon) “by several millions of dollars.”
“We hired an expert to value that property – it’s a very specialized field. He came up with his number in November, and I don’t want to put the City in a position where we go and lose at the Appellate Tax Board and need to pay tens of millions of dollars back to the owner of that property,” said Devereux.
Hanlon countered, “The problem that I see is they’re still producing electricity. They won’t stop for 16 months, and we’re giving them a 16-month break on their taxes and passing it all off on the taxpayers of the City of Everett – that’s not right as far as I’m concerned.”
Hanlon’s comment drew applause from members of the audience.
“It’s not a tax break,” said Devereux. “They’re paying taxes on the fair cash value of the property.”
Ward 2 Councilor Stephanie Martins returned to the heart of matter when she asked, “If someone is turning on the TV right now, and their taxes went up and they want to understand why – could we provide a list of some of the different factors and how they influenced the taxes going up?”
Devereux directly responded to Martins’ well-intentioned question.
“We decreased the value of the power plant approximately $250 million,” said Devereux. “We decreased the value of the Distrigas facility approximately $15 million for a total of $265 million. We look at the cash flows, and that’s nearly $7 million that we lost from those two taxpayers – that has to be made up by the rest of the taxpayers in the City across the board. And the residents bear 72 percent of the tax levy in Everett in Fiscal ’23. That’s the most significant contributing factor to the increase in the tax rate.”