New Study Debunks Myths About Property Taxes in Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts: Today, the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, announced the release of its new report, Community Choices: Thinking Through Land Conservation, Development, and Property Taxes in Massachusetts. The report disproves the long-accepted myth that new residential development makes towns financially stronger by bringing in more local property taxes revenues. In fact, the study finds that in many cases new residential development results in a net revenue loss for towns because the additional property taxes don’t fully cover new municipal services costs.

Whitney Hatch, vice president and regional director of the Trust for Public Land, explained, “The Massachusetts landscape is undergoing an intensive transformation. As development pressures mount on farms, forests, and other open space, communities are struggling to control their growth and find a balance between development and land conservation. Community Choices is designed to give municipal officials and boards the information they need to make sound decisions about their land.”

“The Trust for Public Land’s Community Choices report is an excellent example of the type of information Massachusetts residents need to make critical choices about our future,” said Bob Durand, Secretary of Environmental Affairs. “We must act now to preserve what is special about our communities, or we will lose our unique character forever. If we lose that, we lose the quality of life that makes Massachusetts such a great place to live, work, and raise a family. The same booming economy that puts pressure on us to develop our open spaces also provides us with an opportunity to reinvest near existing infrastructures, furthering community preservation.”

“Whenever a town proposes a land conservation project, questions invariably arise about how the purchase will affect the municipal bottom line,” commented Sally Zielinski, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions. “This report will go a long way toward clarifying the relationship between how land is used, what property taxes are generated from that use, and what towns pay to provide services like fire and police protection and public schools.”

The report concludes that:

  • In general, Massachusetts communities with the most residential development have the highest property tax rates;
  • Towns with the highest residential property tax rates do not spend the most per pupil on education.
  • Land conservation can help control property taxes by guiding growth and limiting the need for expanded municipal services;

Community Choices was written for the Trust for Public Land by economist Deb Brighton and was first released in 1998. The publication of this newly revised version was made possible by generous gifts from the Cricket, Orchard and Sudbury Foundations and from individual supporters.

The Trust for Public Land was founded in 1972 to protect land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since then, we have protected more than 1 million acres of land nationwide. To order a copy of Community Choices, contact Elizabeth Bromberg at (617) 367-6200 x316 or via email at For more information about the Trust for Public Land, visit us on the Web at