Essex County 2018 Property Tax Rates: a Town by Town guide

Property tax rates for FY 2018 for all 34 cities and towns in Essex County have been announced. Below is a map (which you can download by clicking here),
so that you can compare tax rates in neighboring towns, followed by the tax rates for each town the last four years, listed from low to high using 2018 tax rates.

Essex County property tax rates

Tax rates for each town

Essex County tax rates 2018Essex County property tax rates 2018

Median and Average Tax Rates
The median tax rate for 2018 is $14.30, down slightly from 2017’s $14.41, while the average tax rate has dropped from $14.41 to $14.17. The highest taxed town, Amesbury, has a rate 34% higher than the County average, while the lowest, Nahant, is 29% below the average. Or put another way, the highest tax rate in Essex County is 88% higher than the lowest.

How property tax rates are calculated
There are two main points to understand:
The dollar amount raised by property taxes is based on a simple formula: the dollar levy for the previous year plus 2 1/2% (Prop 2 1/2), plus any new growth (e.g. new construction), plus any voter-approved overrides or debt exclusions.
The tax rate is then calculated by dividing the dollar amount to be raised by the Assessed Value of all property. For FY 2018 (July 2017-June 2018) Assessed Values are based upon sales during 2016. Sales in 2017 will be used for calculating the FY 2019 tax rate.

Thus, the dollar amount (and tax bills) will usually increase from year to year, but the tax rate depends upon what happens to Assessed Values (AV).

Here are examples. All assume a 4% increase in the dollar amount to be raised from taxes. The variable is the change in the AV. In the years when AVs are declining, tax rates will rise. As AVs are now increasing we should expect to see tax rates flat to down, as they are overall for FY 2018 .

Property tax rates

Tax rate changes in 2018
Of the 34 cities and towns in Essex County, 21 have announced decreases in their tax rate while 13 have had increases approved.
The largest decreases were logged in Rockport and Swampscott, while the largest increases were in Rowley and Andover.

Tax Rates of Neighboring Towns
Where taxes become interesting is when one can compare tax rates in neighboring towns. Many people, especially those moving to the area, whether from Boston or elsewhere, are willing to consider more than one town.There are many factors in the decision about where to live, but tax rates can be a significant influence on the decision, and may become more so with the new limitation on the deduction of property taxes from Federal taxation.

Note, for example, that the tax rate in Marblehead (read How is Marblehead’s 2018 Property Tax rate calculated?) is lower than in Swampscott (read How is Swampscott’s 2018 Property Tax Rate calculated?); the rate in Newbury is significantly lower than in the surrounding towns; and that the rates in Boxford, Topsfield, Hamilton, Wenham and Essex are much higher than in the surrounding towns. Some argue that lower property values offset higher taxes. Frequently, however, residents of highly taxed towns cite taxes as a reason for wanting to move.