ANDOVER — Homeowners and businessmen are likely to find out just before Christmas how much they will pay in property taxes in the coming year.

Selectmen are expected Dec. 16 to set new tax rates, according to board members Alex Vispoli and Chairwoman Laura Gregory. Vispoli pointed out that selectmen are required to set the tax rate by the middle of December.

Andover currently has two real estate tax rates. Homeowners pay $15.27 per $1,000 worth of property, while business properties pay $27.51 per $1,000. The town uses the state's tax classification law, which allows different rates for homes and businesses.

Selectmen will decide whether to keep the current ratio of rates, called a "shift,'' or adopt a new tax program.

Last year, the board voted for a "shift" of 157.5 for businesses properties. That means Andover businesses pay at a rate 157.5% of what they would pay if the town had the same tax rate for both homes and businesses. Conversely, homeowners pay about 87% of the tax they would be charged if Andover did not use tax classification.

Lawrence, North Andover, Methuen and Haverhill all use the classification law, allowing them to have different tax rates for homes and businesses. Many other Massachusetts communities avoid the potential controversy of tax classification and charge the same tax rate for all properties. North Reading, Boxford and Middleton are among them.

Andover Chief Tax Assessor David Billard has presented several scenarios for selectmen to consider at their Dec. 16 meeting. Keeping the home-business ratio as it is now would drop the tax rate for residential taxpayers slightly, from $15.27 to $15.01 per $1,000. The tax bill for the average home, however, would climb from $9,973 to $10,223, an increase of 2.5%.

The tax rate for business properties would also decrease slightly, from $27.51 to $27.14 per $1,000. Average bills for businesses, however, would increase if the current classification shift remains. The annual tax bill for the average commercial property would rise from $60,475 to $61,954, a 2.4% hike, according to Billard's figures.

Billard pointed out that the increase in bills of 2.5% for homes and 2.4% for commercial properties would be nearly the same.

Vispoli said the board usually prefers to choose a shift that results in equal or nearly equal increases in tax bills for both homes and businesses. He declined to speculate, however, on what he and his colleagues will decide Dec. 16.

Gregory said she also did not want to predict the outcome.

"I am pleased that Andover's property values are continuing to increase for both residential and commercial properties," she wrote in an email. "This increase in values reflects a strong economy, but also a desire to live and work in Andover. With the increase in property values and Andover's strong economic growth over the past year, Andover is able to manage the rate of tax increase across property classifications."

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