Property Tax Limits and Local Fiscal Behavior: Did Massachusetts Cities and Towns Spend Too Little on Town Services Under Proposition 2.5
44 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 1997
Date Written: April 1997
This paper examines the impact of a specific local tax limit, Proposition 2* in Massachusetts, on the fiscal behavior of cities and towns in Massachusetts and the capitalization of that behavior into property values. Proposition 2* places a cap on the effective property tax rate at 2.5 percent and limits nominal annual growth in property tax revenues to 2.5 percent, unless residents pass a referendum (an override) allowing a greater increase. The study analyzes the 1990-94 period, a time when Massachusetts municipalities faced significant fiscal stress because of a 30 percent cut in real state aid and a demographically driven increase in school enrollments. The findings include the following: (1) Proposition 2* significantly constrained local spending in some communities; (2) constrained communities realized gains in property values to the degree that they were able to increase school spending despite the limitation; and (3) changes in school spending were a much stronger influence on house price changes than were changes in nonschool spending. These findings are confirmed using several different econometric approaches, including a two stage technique that directly estimates how close each community?s spending was to what it would have been in the absence of Proposition 2.
JEL Classification: H72, H73, R21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation