Lowell City Council Approves Tax Increase with No Fanfare
LOWELL -- The average single-family tax bill will surpass $4,000 next fiscal year after the City Council voted Tuesday to set the residential tax rate at the lowest percentage of the total levy allowed under state law.
The average property tax in Lowell is estimated at $4,056 in Fiscal 2019 -- an increase of $106, or 2.7 percent from last year.
The City Council voted 8-0 to adopt the minimum residential factor, which results in the maximum tax relief to residential homeowners, according to officials. It shifts the burden to the commercial and industrial classes.
“It’s important to keep doing this (annually) to keep things affordable,” City Councilor Rodney Elliott said.
Since 2009, the average single-family tax bill has gone from under $3,000 to now more than $4,000. The additional $1,116 in taxes for the average household is a 38 percent increase over the last decade.
No one spoke against the tax increase during Tuesday’s public hearing.
Officials tout that the average tax bill remains $1,642 below the state average.
“The city has been able to successfully control budget growth and property tax levy increases, while at the same time expanding services and adding resources to support the City Council’s priority areas,” City Manager Eileen Donoghue wrote to councilors.
“This is evidenced by the approximately $19 million in ‘excess levy capacity’ available under the primary levy limit,” she added.
The average single-family home’s value increased by about $15,000 this year, rising up to $289,566. If a home’s value fell, the owner could see a tax decrease.
In her letter, Donoghue said plans for the tax dollars include an “investment in curb appeal” -- paving, sidewalks and other projects.
The city manager referenced tax dollars addressing “continued support of public safety.”
“By maintaining the highest staffing levels in decades in the Lowell Police Department, crime rates have decreased according to data reported to the FBI,” Donoghue wrote to councilors. “In FY19, the City Council also fulfilled its commitment to public safety by fully funding the Fire Department at 213 sworn personnel, despite the loss of significant grant funding from FEMA.”
Donoghue referred to tax dollars addressing education needs, including $1.15 million for Lowell High School’s 1922 Building’s roof repair, and $1 million in improvements to school facilities, including HVAC system repair and replacement.
The city manager also listed economic development and quality of life as a target of tax dollars. This included budgeting $35.4 million to fund the construction phase of the 940-space parking garage in the Hamilton Canal District.
City Councilor James Milinazzo was absent from the meeting.