As Deadline Nears, Tax Abatement Filing Lowest in Two Decades
The number of tax abatement requests in Danvers is lower than usual this year.
On the eve of the deadline to file for a tax abatement this year, the number of abatement filings is on track to be the lowest in more than two decades.
"It's a bit lower than usual," said Chief Assessor Marlene Locke.
The deadline to submit an abatement request is Friday, Feb. 1. The filing must be at Town Hall by the end of the day or postmarked by that day. There is no fee to file.
Filing for an abatement does not challenge the tax bill and instead challenges the assessed value of a property that is in turn used to calculate the taxes owed.
Locke said that public information has helped homeowners and property owners understand the process and their property value. In turn, that may have led to a lower number of filings.
"I think it helps that we put so much information out there," Locke said.
All property values in Danvers are available online. Plus, the assessor's office helps people understand the assessing process each year when the tax rate is set and always answers property owner's questions either at the counter at Town Hall, via e-mail or by phone, she said.
"A lot of time people just want to feel comfortable with their value," she said. "We like to make ourselves available to help people answer question."
As of Tuesday, there had been 22 abatement filings so far for fiscal 2013.
"We will get an influx at the end," Locke said.
Last year there were 70 filings. That was the lowest number in Locke's 23 year tenure in Danvers.
Of those 70, about two-third for commercial properties and one third for residential property, Locke said.
"In past year's, it has been the other way around," Locke said.
This year, the breakdown is closer to 50-50 so far.
All of the abatement requests are reviewed by the Board of Assessors and the property owners are notified about the decision in writing. The board has three months to make a decision, Locke said. It will take 1-2 months to get through all the residential abatement paperwork.
The application is confidential but the Board of Assessor's vote on an abatement is public, Locke said.
The town government has about $600,000 in it's so-called overlay account, a section of the budget set aside to cover tax abatements. Of that, about half goes toward statutory exemptions for elderly and blind citizens and veterans. The rest is used for abatements.
"We always have sufficient money to cover all the cases," Locke said.