General Tax Information

The property tax is part of a well-balanced revenue system. Properties are assessed so that the city can provide:
  • Libraries
  • Police and fire protection
  • Road and sidewalk programs
  • Schools
  • Trash pickup
  • Other public benefits
Each taxpayer absorbs their fair share of the cost of these services in proportion to the value of their individual property.

Proposition 2 1/2
Proposition 2 1/2 is Massachusetts' version of a property tax limitation law. The law was enacted through initiative petition in 1980. It limits annual increases in the total proposed levy to 2.5%, plus taxes from new growth. The levy limit provisions of Proposition 2 1/2 affect the total amount of taxes to be raised by a city or town.

Proposition 2 1/2 does not apply to an individual tax bill.

Law Details
  1. The tax levy is the amount of money to be raised by the property tax.
  2. Each year, the community's levy limit automatically increases by 2.5% over the previous year's levy limit. This does not require any action on the part of local officials.
  3. The Commissioner of Revenue determines the maximum levy limit pursuant to Proposition 2 1/2 for each city and town.
  4. The property tax levy ceiling (the amount raised) can never exceed 2.5% of the full cash value of all taxable property in the city.
  5. The total taxes assessed for any fiscal year cannot exceed an amount equal to 2.5% of the maximum limit for the preceding fiscal year plus new construction or new growth, debt exclusions, or voter approved overrides.
  6. When a community sets its levy below the limit, the difference between the levy and the levy limit is commonly referred to as the excess levy capacity. This is an additional amount the community could, but choose not to, levy.
Once the amount to be raised is determined, a tax rate is calculated by dividing the amount to be raised by the total valuation of the city or town.

Determining Tax Increase or Decrease
Whether the tax rate for the community will increase or decrease from the prior year will depend upon the levy decided upon by the community and whether property values appreciate, depreciate or remain steady in the community.