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Pittsfield Sets Tax Rate, Residents Will Pay More

Donkey Hotey/Flickr

Property taxes are going up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The city council on Tuesday night approved the use of free cash to soften the blow.

Residents will see an additional $38 per $100,000 of assessed value on their annual tax bill next year. That’s an increase of 1.94 percent over last year.

Commercial property owners will see an increase of $20 per $100,000, or about 0.5 percent more.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the city council approved the use of $1 million in free cash to balance the budget. That’s down from the $2.25 million of certified free cash budgeted in June to offset taxpayer contribution. 

Finance Director Matt Kerwood says the onus is now more on taxpayers, to the tune of $85 million.

"With reducing it to the million, we don't believe we are creating an onerous tax burden," Kerwood says.

The median commercial business valued at $198,000 will even see a slight reduction.

Every five years the state evaluates city property values. The state found that Pittsfield is up 3 percent, which Kerwood says hiked the levy ceiling.

“It was appropriate and prudent to reduce the amount of free cash that we originally put into the budget projections,” Kerwood says.

The city has used free cash to balance the budget for the last decade. The decision to reduce the city’s free cash injection divided the city council. Councilor Chris Connell proposed the city add $500,000 more in free cash to reduce the residential tax burden.

"We have an opportunity right now to give the residents of the city a little bit of a break, and I think we should take that opportunity," Connell says.

That idea was narrowly shot down. Using $1 million in free cash leaves the city’s reserves at $4.4 million. Those funds can be used for single purchases such as possibly upgrading the city’s trash collection with larger totes.  

Councilor Melissa Mazzeo questioned why the council was asked to reduce the city’s free cash injection before reviewing the proposed tax rate plan.

“For the decision to be made, it could not have been made by Wednesday for that to be put in there,” Mazzeo says. “They had to have known a little sooner that was going to happen.”

The city assessor points to the state reevaluation that came in after the council meeting two weeks ago.

The state still needs to approve the reallocation of free cash. A tax rate needs to be finalized before the end of the year.

Mayor Linda Tyer calls the tax rate fair, and growth of the city’s reserves vital. Tyer says the Pittsfield is on the right track.

“It’s good news that we have been able to set a tax rate and reducing the amount of free cash that we are using to do it,” Tyer says.

Compared to Gateway Cities of similar size, Pittsfield has the lowest average single family tax bill.

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