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Springfield City Council Raises Taxes On Majority Of Property Owners

City Hall in Springfield, Ma

   Property tax bills will go up next year for the vast majority of homeowners, as well as businesses, in the largest city in western Massachusetts.   But Springfield city officials paint it as further evidence of a steadily improving economy. 

     The City Council voted Monday night to keep the tax rate for residential property unchanged, but because property values have increased substantially the annual tax bill for the average single-family home will increase $142.

     The owners of commercial and industrial property in Springfield will also see higher tax bills as values have risen and the business tax rate will increase by 47 cents.

    The value of all taxable property in Springfield has increased by over $380 million since last year, according to Richard Allen, Chairman of the Board of Assessors, who said it is a result of homes selling at much higher prices than a few years ago, and businesses making substantial investments in personal property.

    " I think that is great news," declared Allen. " It is a sign of confidence in our housing sector as well as our business sector."

     City officials have touted other positive signs of recovery from the Great Recession including a steadily falling unemployment rate and $3.5 billion in construction activity in the last five years. 

     The housing market collapsed in the wake of the recession and for a time Springfield had the highest foreclosure rate of any city in the state.  The average value of a single-family home in the city has increased 11.6 percent since 2013.

    The value of the average single family home rose to $142,000 from $134,800 last year.

    During a public hearing before the council voted to set the tax rates,  Springfield resident Wilfredo Lopez said homeowners will have sticker shock when they see their tax bill.

  " They were not ready for their property value to go up and now on top of that you are going to charge them more money per $1,000 because their property value went up," he said.

   Springfield Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Creed endorsed the tax rates proposed by Mayor Domenic Sarno.  He recommended increasing the residential rate by five cents, which Creed said would have preserved the current gap between the business and residential shares of the city’s tax levy.

  " It is an exciting time in the city. We are seeing development, growing our entrepreneurial ecosystem, hearing the buzz on the street. It would be our hope that you will help continue the city's forward momentum and encourage business  growth, job growth and economic development and maintain the freeze  in the gap," Creed stated.

   The vote was 9-3 to set the residential tax rate at $19.66 per $1,000 of assessed valuation and the business tax rate at $39.07 per $1,000 of assessed value.

   The rates were recommended by a five-member Tax Ratio Committee chaired by City Councilor Tim Allen.

    " Values have gone up so high in Springfield this year we thought one way to temper that would be to keep the residential rate the same," said Allen.

  With the rates set, the city will mail the first quarterly tax bills by the end of this month.  People who believe the city has set the value of their property too high have until February 1, 2017 to file an application for an abatement to try to lower their taxes.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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