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Hingham officials look to save taxpayers money

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 26, 2012 04:56 PM

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Hingham will not change the way the town taxes its residents or businesses in the coming year, though it hopes to save taxpayers money.

According to Hingham Selectman Bruce Rabuffo, despite a suggestion by one the town’s Assessor’s Board members to tax the commercial residents more in order to save residential taxpayers money, the selectmen chose not to.

“We said not now. We should study it first so people can have adequate time to plan for it,” Rabuffo said.

The proposal has been brought up every year for the last several years, as town officials seek out ways to save residents money.

Yet for every dollar the 7,650 residents would save in taxes, the 407 businesses and commercial properties would have to be taxed $7 more.

For Rabuffo, the change just didn’t make sense yet, especially with an economy that hasn’t fully recovered.

Consequently, a group will be put together to take a detailed look at the tax base to see if and when it should be treated differently.

While businesses and residents will still be taxed the same for the time being, selectmen are seeking out ways to save all taxpayers money.

According to Rabuffo, it’s a good time to put forth such an initiative, especially considering the strong financial state of the town, the lack of tax relief in recent decades, and how much the typical resident is struggling to survive.

“The economy is still in lousy shape, and we don’t know where the fiscal cliff is going to go, so people will be hurting,” Rabuffo said. “If we can relieve some of that, assuming some people’s taxes may go up, [we will].”

There are several options for providing tax relief to residents, but most likely the relief would be for all residents rather than just to targeted groups, Rabuffo said.

“It’s the people’s money, so lets give it back to the people,” Rabuffo said.

Among the options is to send a check for a specific amount to every property owner, however that would cost the town a minimum of $40,000 a year in administrative costs.

The town could also choose to provide a credit to property owners, however that would also cost the town $15,000 a year.

Both sending checks to residents and giving them a credit would also require special legislation.

The town can also choose to apply meals tax money to offset the tax burden, or consider paying off some of its long-term liabilities, such as pension and other post-employment benefits, earlier to stave off inflation costs.

All the items are still up for discussion, and will be narrowed down by a group consisting of the town accountant, an elder services representative, the town clerk, the treasurer, and the town administrator.

Whatever option is chosen will be presented at annual town meeting. Though town meeting won’t occur till the spring, selectmen will have to put forth a warrant article by Jan. 20, meaning a clearer picture of how residents may save money may be coming soon.

“It looks like we can do something and there is a way there is to do something for everybody,” Rabuffo said.

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