Last minute jockying for influence over tax vote (updated with more numbers)

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Tomorrow night the city council will vote to set next fiscal year’s tax rate(s), so of course advocates for both business and homeowners have spent the last week or so doing whatever they can to get access to councilors.

This year has a different feeling than other years, regarding the tax vote. Last year, many councilors (or at least the majority needed to pass the vote) promised voters they would vote for the lowest residential rate while campaigning, taking a lot of the mystery out of the vote that following winter. This year, however, we’ve got a split right down the middle.

Even if councilors vote in the lowest residential rate property taxes will go up $147 for the average homeowner because of the council’s vote in the spring to tap $2 million from the tax levy to fund the $20 million Street and Sidewalk Initiative, in addition to the annual increase under prop. 2 1/2. If the lowest residential rate is voted in, then commercial property owners would see their taxes rise $1,468 higher on average in order to make up the rest of that tax increase. (I don’t have those figures yet — waiting for a call back from City CFO Tom Zidelis.)

With that in mind, five councilors are considering splitting that increase between homeowners and commercial owners, which means no lowest residential rate. In fact, the numbers would look like this: homeowners would pay, on average, $178 more this year, while businesses would pay $1,164 (12/21 update: The T&G reports this figure to be $1,139). Reports are that five other councilors have already decided to vote lowest residential, with one swing vote.

Last week we posted (below) a report by Worcester Citizens for Business regarding the dual tax rate (which was widely panned in the comments section). On December 16 Dick Kennedy, CEO of the Regional Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to members to encourage them to come to tomorrow’s meeting, writing “tax fairness is the Chamber’s primary concern. We are seeking the same percentage increase this year for residential and commercial property owners so that the tax burden is shared equally.”

Not to be outdone, lowest residential tax advocate Gary Vecchio sent out his own letter to the entire council, citing tax increase figures and writing “with Social Security recipients not receiving a cost of living increase for the second year in a row, with many homes on the verge of still being foreclosed, with water and sewer rates going through the roof, with gasoline now costing more than three dollars a gallon, with people still not able to find jobs, and with others working two or three jobs just to try to make ends meet, with an increase in the sales tax, there is no way the City Council should vote anything other than the lowest residential tax rate.”

If I get more numbers or information before the vote I’ll be sure to post them here. Otherwise, tune in here for tomorrow’s meeting. It should be a barn burner.



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2 responses to “Last minute jockying for influence over tax vote (updated with more numbers)

  1. zed

    This is the one thing that will influence homeowner/voters. It will be a losing battle this campaign season if council screws this one up. With jobs in short supply, city councilor could be an option.

  2. Those business mavens in the Task Force are unequivocally stating that a lower commercial tax rate will turn Worcester into a boomtown. That is blatantly disingenuous. Because – pay attention here – businesses don’t pay taxes. That’s right – you heard it here first. A tax is an outlay by a business that is recovered via the price of the product or service. Better said, the tax is built into the price, which we all know, the consumer pays.

    In Worcester’s case we got a handful of business folks arguing if the taxes were lower it would attract more businesses to Worcester and that local businesses would further invest in their businesses, hire locals, and consumers would pay less etc. In other words, we all stand to reap the benefits of a tax cut – that’s patently untrue.

    Let’s not forget, even the WRRB (Benchmarking Economic Development in Worcester: 2010) clearly stated that “property taxes are one a many factors that influence decisions about where to live or conduct business.” In other words, there’s a lot more to selling Worcester as an investment than dangling a low tax rate in front of investors.

    In the current situation the lowering of the property tax rate for businesses is essentially a transfer of wealth from the poor to the wealthy.

    In the vernacular. The homeowners are gettin robbed. And they can thank Mayor Joe O’Brien for that. The man who lied to the electorate to get elected.

    Sure wish they brought back tar and feathering.

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