By Nick Kotsopoulos TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER — The total assessed value of all taxable property in the city has lost most of its gains from the previous year, having dropped by nearly $400 million.
City Assessor William J. Ford said his office has determined total valuation for this fiscal year is $10.9 billion. That is based on the assessor's opinion of value for all individual taxable properties as of Jan. 1, 2012.
In comparison, the total valuation for the previous fiscal year was $11.3 billion.
With the drop in Worcester's total valuation, there is a corresponding increase to its combined single tax rate; it has gone up by $1.70, to $22.03, according to Mr. Ford.
Since 1984, the City Council has set separate tax rates for residential and commercial-industrial properties, using tax classification to shift more of the tax burden from residential to business property owners. The combined single rate is what the city's tax rate would be without classification.
The council is to hold its annual tax classification hearing on Dec. 4 and set the tax rates for this fiscal year.
Under tax classification, the City Council this year can set the residential tax rate as low as $17.72 per $1,000 in valuation; that would translate into a commercial-industrial tax rate of $33.05, according to Mr. Ford.
The tax rates for last fiscal year were $16.98 for residential and $29.07 for commercial-industrial properties.
It is the fourth time in the last five years that the city's total valuation has either dropped or held steady.
The only time it increased during that time was last fiscal year when a comprehensive revaluation of all taxable properties was undertaken.
That year, Worcester's total assessed valuation increased by roughly $420 million, but with this year's drop in property values the total valuation is now only about $22 million more than what it was two years ago.
The high water mark for the city's total valuation came in 2008, when it reached $12.7 billion; the city is now $1.8 billion below that figure.
Worcester's tax base is now made up of 48,518 pieces of taxable property, compared to 48,349 a year ago. It includes, in part: 24,931 single-family homes; 4,953 condominiums; 3,602 two-family; 4,884 three-family; 1,227apartment buildings (four units and more); 2,232 commercial and 593 industrial properties.
Residential property accounts for 72 percent of the tax base, while business properties make up the other 28 percent, according to the assessor.