Municipal Glossary


A means by which a property value can be reduced. The application has to be filed on a State-approved form. It must be in the Assessors' Office no later than November 1st or  30 days from the date of the postmark of the tax bill, whichever is later.  After review of the abatement application, the Board of Assessors makes its decision on whether to grant or deny the abatement or exemption. The Assessors must act on the application within 3 months of the date of the filing of the application. For information on Abatements & Appeal Process click here.

Appellate Tax Board

A quasi-judicial board for taxpayer appeal after the Board of Assessors has made a decision regarding an abatement application. The application must be made within 3 months of the date the Board of Assessors makes its decision.

Filing information is available at:
The Appellate Tax Board
100 Cambridge St.
Boston, MA 02114
The phone number for the Appellate Tax Board is 617 727-3100.


A means by which a tax on a primary residence can be reduced. Provisions for certain qualifying taxpayers: elderly persons, blind persons, disabled veterans, surviving spouses or orphaned minor child, widow or orphaned minor child of police officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty, and extreme hardship. For more information click here.

Proposition 2 1/2

A constitutional change to the law, which limits the amount that the levy can increase each year. It does not limit the amount an assessment can change or that taxes can go up. It limits the amount of money that a town can raise through taxation without an override vote. It also allows Towns some flexibility, with voter approval, to increase the levy limit on a temporary basis (debt or capital expenditure exclusions).

Tax Levy

The amount of money that must be raised through taxation to balance the town budget for the year. It is the difference between the actual budget amount and the amount of monies raised by all other sources (free cash, local receipts, state aid). For Fiscal 2018 the levy was $15,604,891.

Tax Levy Limit

The maximum amount a community can levy in a given year. The limit is increased by 2.5% over the previous year’s limit plus any new growth and any overrides, debt or capital expenditure exclusions. For Fiscal 2018, the levy limit, including the debt exclusions, is $ 15,617,995.

Tax Levy Ceiling

The maximum levy assessed cannot exceed 2.5% of the total full and fair cash value of all taxable property. For Fiscal 2018 the levy ceiling was $22,103,245.

Tax Rate Recapitulation

The document submitted to the Department of Revenue in order to set the property tax rate. This shows the estimated revenues and actual appropriations that affect the tax rate.

Tax Rate Calculation

The total amount of tax to be levied divided by the total taxable valuation of the Town. The result is a tax rate expressed in dollars per thousand.

For Fiscal Year 2018:

  • Total Tax Levy --- $ 15,604,891
  • Total Assessed Value --- $884,129,790 = $17.65 / 1000

Arm’s Length Sale

A transfer of property ownership between a willing seller and a willing buyer. These are the sales the Assessors use to determine the “market” for purposes of determining assessments. Does not include, for example, foreclosures, sales involving family, estates, bankruptcy, abutters.

Assessment Date

The date property tax liability is fixed. In Massachusetts, property taxes are assessed as of January 1st. Assessors determine the physical status of taxable property, its ownership, fair cash value and usage classification as of that date.

Ad Valorem

A Latin phrase meaning according to value. By Law, property taxes are assessed at full and fair cash value (FFCV) of the real or personal property.

Assessed Valuation

A value set on real estate or other personal property by a government as the basis for levying taxes.

Cyclical Inspections

The Assessors must re-inspect all real estate every 6 to 9 years, verifying its attributes, quality and condition as a part of determining the FFCV of property.

Fiscal Year

Since 1974, the Commonwealth and municipalities have operated on a fiscal year basis which begins July 1 and ends June 30.

Free Cash

Unrestricted funds from operations of the previous fiscal year that are certified by the Director of Accounts is available for appropriation. Examples are receipts in excess of estimates, unspent amounts from budget line-items, unexpended free cash from the preceding year. Calculations are based on the June 30 balance sheet submitted by the Town Accountant. Having an adequate free cash balance is a component of sound local fiscal management.

Full and Fair Cash Value (FFCV)

Defined by the Supreme Judicial Court as “fair market value”, which is the price an owner is willing but not under compulsion to sell ought to receive from one willing, but not under compulsion, to buy.

Overlay Reserve (Allowance for Abatements and Exemptions)

An account established by the Assessors annually to fund anticipated tax abatements, exemptions and uncollectable taxes in that year.

Overlay Surplus

Any balance in the Overlay Reserve in a given year in excess of the amount remaining to be collected or abated can be transferred into this account for the appropriation of any lawful purpose.


A vote by a community at an election to permanently increase the levy limit. The override question on the ballot must state the specific purpose and the dollar amount of the override.

Personal Property Tax

Movable items not permanently affixed to, or part of the real estate. It is assessed separately from real estate to certain businesses, public utilities and owners of homes that are not their primary residence. For more information click here.

Triennial Revaluation

The Commissioner of Revenue is required to review local assessments every three years and certify that they represent FFCV (MGL Ch40, S56, 59 & 2A(c). Assessors must also maintain current values in the interim years so that the taxpayer pays his or her fair share of the cost of local government in proportion to the value of his property.