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Where you’ll pay the highest taxes and the lowest in the suburbs

Property taxes in Weston, which average $19,380 for single-family homes, are the highest in the state.
Property taxes in Weston, which average $19,380 for single-family homes, are the highest in the state. Bill Greene/Globe staff/File

As home values throughout the Greater Boston suburbs continue to climb, property owners are being hit with higher tax bills.

A Globe review of state Department of Revenue data found that in 40 of the 158 municipalities in the Greater Boston suburbs, the tax bill on the average single-family home increased by at least 5 percent this year.

Tax hikes ranged from 1 percent to 11 percent, with Holbrook homeowners seeing the biggest percentage gain. There, the average single-family tax bill jumped $559, from $4,984 last fiscal year to $5,543.

Twenty-three of the 151 municipalities analyzed now have average tax bills that surpass $10,000, up from 20 communities last year. All but six — Manchester-by-the Sea ($12,208), Winchester ($11,946), Cohasset ($11,902), Wenham ($10,990), Westwood ($10,596), and Sharon ($10,378) — are in the western suburbs.

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Not surprisingly, the highest average tax bills in fiscal 2017 (July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017) are in towns where homes often command prices well over $1 million, including the three towns where the average single-family tax bill surpasses $15,000. Weston, where the average bill is $19,380 (the highest in the state), tops the list, followed by Sherborn ($15,425) and Lincoln ($15,185).

In Weston, the average assessed value for single-family homes is about $1.6 million, according to the state Department of Revenue.

On the other end of the spectrum, the analysis found the lowest property tax bills are south and north of Boston, though only five municipalities still have average bills under $4,000, down from eight last year.

Wareham has the lowest property tax bills, at $2,799 this fiscal year. Only four others — Lawrence ($2,947), Brockton ($3,620), Lowell ($3,788), and Freetown ($3,998) — have bills under $4,000.

In Wareham, the average value of a single-family home is $248,794. The average assessment in Lawrence — $192,107 — is the lowest in Greater Boston.

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Low tax bills can sometimes be deceiving. In Wareham, for example, the average homeowner pays an additional $547 or $679 for fire service, depending on which of two fire districts serves the property, according to town treasurer/tax collector John D. Foster. Residents also pay privately for trash pickup.

Property taxes in Wareham are low, but residents pay extra for services such as fire calls and trash pickup.
Property taxes in Wareham are low, but residents pay extra for services such as fire calls and trash pickup.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Of the 10 communities with the biggest percentage increase in the average single-family tax bill, three in addition to Holbrook lie south of Boston: Carver (10 percent), Abington (9 percent), and Quincy (7 percent). Four are in the western suburbs: Berlin (10 percent), Hudson and Wayland (both 7 percent, and Millis (6 percent). Two are north of Boston: Winchester (9 percent) and Wenham (8 percent).

Taxpayers often question how their bills can rise so quickly given Proposition 2½, which limits increases to 2½ percent of the total property taxes collected in a municipality but allows for exceptions, including for new construction. In addition, voters can choose to surpass the limit by approving an override, which is a permanent tax hike, or a debt exclusion, an increase that lasts only as long as it takes to pay off the loan for a particular project.

In Holbrook, homeowners are footing the bill for a new prekindergarten through Grade 12 school. The town will receive up to $55.7 million from the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the project, but residents are shouldering the balance, expected to be about $47 million. Voters approved the debt exclusion required for the new school in November 2014 by a ratio of nearly 3 to 1.

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The town’s operating budget increased just 1.5 percent this year, well under the 2.5 percent allowed, to nearly $22.2 million. However, the school construction project added just over $3 million to the tax levy.

“When it was originally proposed, our figures for the [school construction] project were based on a 4.5 to 5 percent interest rate. We’re realizing a rate much lower than that — 3.2 percent — so there’s a savings there,” Town Administrator Timothy J. Gordon said.

The new 1,095-student school is expected to open in September and will replace the town’s three public schools.

Hanson and Avon are the only communities in Eastern Massachusetts where the average tax bill is lower today than it was last year. In both towns, the average bill dropped about 1 percent, to $4,792 in Hanson and $4,773 in Avon.

In Hanson, spending is down and the cost to repair the Maquan Elementary School roof came off the tax levy this year, Town Administrator Michael McCue said. In Avon, the tax burden shifted slightly to commercial and industrial properties from residential properties. A state-mandated revaluation of all town properties for fiscal 2017 indicated that single-family values dropped 1.5 percent this fiscal year — to $276,197 compared to last — while commercial property values increased 5 percent and industrial properties went up 7.5 percent.

“The good news is the tax burden is stable for the people who choose to make their home in Avon,” said Town Administrator Francis T. Crimmins Jr. “There is no fee for curbside trash pickup and our average water bill is only $150 per year per household. In addition to that, we do not have a town sewer system, so that saves homeowners money as well.”

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While the film shows the grittier side of town, Manchester-by-the-Sea has the highest average property taxes north of Boston, $12,208 for the average single-family home.
While the film shows the grittier side of town, Manchester-by-the-Sea has the highest average property taxes north of Boston, $12,208 for the average single-family home.Jim Abst

Brenda J. Buote may be reached at brenda.buote@gmail.com .