By Rod Lee
Auburn Town Manager Julie Jacobson, State Sen. Michael Moore and State Rep. Paul Frost shared their answers on a number of questions as panelists for a fast-moving hour-long breakfast meeting sponsored by the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and hosted by J. Anthony’s Italian Grill in North Oxford on November 8th.
But the one that Moderator Hank Stolz posed to them last—tax classification—was the most eagerly anticipated by those in attendance.
The tone of Ms. Jacobson’s remarks on the subject (ahead of a Fall Town Meeting vote on tax classification scheduled for November 13th) were set in the opening paragraph of a story headlined “Auburn’s CI growth takes off like a rocket” that appeared in the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce’s November 2017 “Chamber Exchange” newspaper. The newspaper was provided as a handout at the event. The paragraph read: “Look out, Worcester, Auburn is on the move with a tax rate strategy that is saving both businesses and residents big money.”
Seated between Mr. Moore and Mr. Frost on a stage in the restaurant’s function room, Ms. Jacobson noted that Auburn, Webster and Worcester are the only communities in the immediate area with a dual tax rate. In Auburn’s case, however, that is changing and the change is having a positive impact, she said.
In 2007, Ms. Jacobson said, the Auburn Board of Selectmen began to formulate a plan to “go toward a single tax rate.” Since that time, the commercial/industrial “differential” in Auburn has been sliced from 1.62 percent to “a more comfortable” 1.20 percent. Whereas before Auburn’s new-revenue growth was heavily reliant on residential properties, that is less true today. The town’s new-revenue growth driven by residential property taxes was 45 percent and climbing in 2007; this year it has dropped to 35.5 percent, with commercial/industrial closing much of the gap.