On a vote of 3 to 2, the Selectmen continued the practice of taxing commercial properties at 175 percent, while residences are taxed at 100 percent.
Selectman Jill Sullivan fought to lower the rate businesses pay slightly to 170 percent, which would have saved the average business $454 next year and cost homeowners an average of $36 more.
"It's no wonder that businesses scream that it is too hard to do business in Swampscott," Sullivan said.
She said she hears weekly at Rotary Club luncheons that the town is "sticking it" to businesses. "It is a constant refrain," she said.
Sullivan said the proposed 5 percent decrease would be "a small, but meaningful gesture" to businesses in town.
Board Chairman Richard Malagrifa agreed with Sullivan, saying the tax cut would send a very positive signal to the business community and help create a strong business environment in town.
Swampscott's tax base is made up of 83 percent residential taxpayers and 13 percent businesses with the balance being other types of taxpayers.
Vice Chairman David Van Dam, Selectmen Barry Greenfield and Glenn Kessler opposed the reduction for commercial properties.
Greenfield said he would support a longterm plan for reducing the commercial tax burden over the next 10 years.
"We are not like other communities" that tax their commercial properties at a lower rate, Kessler said. "We are not Marblehead."
Kessler, who is in the real estate business, said every real estate firm in Marblehead tells potential buyers how much higher residential property taxes are in Swampscott.
The Board of Assessors voted unanimously to recommend to the selectmen to keep the higher tax rate on businesses.