Since 2006, small businesses like Centre Deli in Dedham Square have watched their tax bills climb - more than doubling in the past six years.
The Dedham Board of Selectmen voted Thursday evening to lessen the burden in an attempt to spread the pain evenly between residents and business owners.
"In my term here, this is the hardest vote I've ever had to do. I can see pain on both sides," said chairman Jim MacDonald, who has served on the Board of Selectmen since 1993. "There's nobody in this room that doesn't know the burden on the small businesses owner in town. Conversely, they know the burden on an individual on a fixed-income."
Commercial property owners will pay $32.20 for every $1,000 their business' assesed value. Residents will pay $15.43 for every $1,000 their homes are valued, pending approval by the state's Department of Revenue.
On average, Dedham homeowners will see their tax bills rise $287 from what they paid in 2011. Business owners will pay an additional $3,061.
In years past, selectmen have voted to give business owners the highest allowable tax increase in order to keep residential rates down. This year, the Board of Assessors recommended a major shift from the status quo, calling on selectmen to approve a more equitable increase for the two groups.
The difference equals $94 extra dollars on the average residental tax bill, and a savings of $1,752 on the average commercial tax bill.
Selectmen Michael Butler, Paul Reynolds, Jim MacDonald and Sarah MacDonald voted for the recommended tax rate. Selectman Carmen Dello Iacono was absent from the meeting and did not vote.
"It is a very difficult choice to make - recommend less than the maximum shift," Board of Assessors chariman Richard Bremer said. "It is not out of a concern for Legacy Place and their various investors all over the world, but more with the local businesses that are facing some pretty tough economic times for the foreseeable future."
The effect on small businesses drove the change in practice, selectmen and the Board of Assessors said. Commercial tax rates have increased about 19 percent since fiscal year 2006, and residential tax rates have risen 13 percent over the same time frame.
For Centre Deli, that means taxes rose from $7,213 in 2006 to $15,048 in 2011.
"We cannot handle anymore tax increases," Centre Deli owner Anthony Caruso said. "If it were you, what would you say?"
Homeowners have seen their tax bills rise for two reasons: expected increase in government operations and declining home values.
Town officials pointed to fuel prices and health care costs as drivers of spending. Steps to decrease energy costs and a four-year collective bargaining agreement for an average 1 percent pay raise has helped to control the budget, selectmen said.
Homeowners were hit harder by the real estate bubble, on average, than commercial properties. Since 2006, the average home value fell $47,000. Commercial values have increased slightly from $1.79 million to $1.84 million, but that number is skewed because of the addition of Legacy Place and NewBridge on the Charles, officials said.
"Without Legacy Place," Bremer said, "the town would've had some layoffs again this year."
By the numbers:
|Avg. Assessed value||Avg. 2011 bill||Avg. 2012||Percent change|