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.