Getting Answers: rising property tax bills

Getting Answers: rising property tax bills
Updated: Feb. 23, 2023 at 5:55 PM EST
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PALMER, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Property values are rising in Massachusetts and local realtors are seeing a 10 to 15 percent increase in appraisals. Higher valuations mean higher taxes and one western Massachusetts community is reeling over their third quarter property tax bills.

Neighbors who live on Lake Thompson in Palmer often meet up to compare their skyrocketing tax bills.

“This is not this affluent town where are, you know, ‘Oh, okay, we’re just going to write a check for this amount.’ This is a burden. This is a very large burden on people,” said homeowner Darcy Fuller Walulak.

Fuller Walulak was named spokesperson of the group of residents who are in shock over a 50 to 60 percent increase in property values for homes on the small lake, compared with a 14 percent increase for the rest of the town. “The town has decided that my house is worth $500,000, which is lovely, if it were true,” Fuller Walulak added.

She said her 1,100 square foot home on less than a quarter of an acre would never sell for such an exorbitant price. “People think that their assessments have gone up way more than they could ever sell their home for and they’re really looking at their taxes going up,” said realtor Karen King.

King told Western Mass News that homeowners across the state are feeling the burden of the inflated real estate market. 2023 property assessments are based on sales from 2021, when houses were going for well-above market value.

“People love waterfront properties and there’s a lot of people coming from Boston areas and out-of-state that are buying local properties for a second home even, but that definitely has a direct effect on the homeowners that are there as well,” King added.

Two houses sold at the height of the market on Lake Thompson could be to blame for the high valuations.

“These are folks from out-of-town…coming with money for a second vacation home and have cash to spend, so we’re not talking about local dollars,” Fuller Walulak explained.

On land alone, Fuller Walulak’s assessment went from $77,000 to $168,000. The homeowners told us their valuations rose by at least $100,000 and they’ll be paying at least $2,000 more in taxes this year.

“I’m a math teacher and it just doesn’t add up, you know. We just can’t figure it out,” Fuller Walulak noted.

Many of the homeowners have filed for abatement, but the burden of proof is on them. The town’s Board of Assessors needs persuasive evidence to change a valuation. A local realtor can help by doing a market valuation.

“In most cases, we are finding frankly that, you know, the values just have gone up. They’ve gone up 10 percent to 15 percent in a lot of cases,” King added.

We’ve learned property values are rising across the board. In Springfield, the average tax bill is up $193 since last year, from $3,484 to $3,677. In Longmeadow, the average tax bill is $10,022, up $340 since last year. In Palmer, the average tax bill is up $179, which is a far cry from the increases Lake Thompson homeowners are seeing.

“There’s no such thing as view tax or waterfront tax, nothing like that,” King added.

King said land with waterfront or a view is simply more valuable.

“So, therefore, your percentage of increase goes up because those houses, the prices have gone up for sure,” King said.

It’s a scary reality for year-round residents of Lake Thompson.

“Most of the homes are owned by retirement folks that are on a fixed income and there’s a lot of concern about them being forced out of their homes,” Fuller Walulak said.

The Palmer assessor’s office is now doing home visits in the Lake Thompson neighborhood to see if any reduction in property values is warranted.