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Property taxes to increase for Pittsfield ratepayers in Fiscal Year 2023

A stone building with a colonnade lit by lights sits in front of a brick churck and a street lamp
Josh Landes

Pittsfield, Massachusetts tax rates will increase in 2023 as the city raises almost $7 million more in property taxes than last year.

At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, the body voted to approve a tax levy of over $101 million.

Chief Assessor Laura Catalano led the council through the findings of the city’s January 1st, 2022 real estate assessment of Pittsfield, Berkshire County’s largest community of around 43,000.

“Single families show an increase of $284 million," she said. "Condominiums are up $27 million. Our 104s are up $16.7 million. 105s, which are three families, are up $2.6 million. These increases are primarily due to the housing market sales from calendar 2021 and also could be some physical changes in the property, which would increase its overall value- Additions, decks, bathrooms, that nature. Our 111s to 125s are the four plus units. They're up $8.2 million. Land vacant and accessory is up $4.2 million. Our commercial class is up $15.3 million. This is, some of it’s the new Taco Bell, additions to existing buildings, exempt properties coming onto the tax roll, and that kind of nature. Industrial is up $11.4 million- New warehouses, Covanta is no longer a service agreement and some decertified or expired TIFs. Our industrial power plant, Pittsfield Gen, is down 11 point 3 million, and this is due to a professional appraisal being required by the Department of Revenue for each recertification year. This property to is also most likely to continue to decline in value.”

For fiscal year 2023, Pittsfield will have a total personal property value of over $332 million — an increase of over $13 million.

“This is the average single-family home in the city of Pittsfield," said Catalano. "It’s a Cape-style with three bedrooms, two bath, an attached one car garage and it's assessed at $248,100. It's located in the north end of Pittsfield.”

The rising assessment means more property taxes for homeowners.

“Here's the average fiscal ‘23 tax liability," said Catalano. "This is using that same average single-family value of $248,100. With the proposed rate of $18.32, it would equate to taxes of $4,545.19. And this would be a dollar increase of $423.52.”

Conservatives like Ward 2 city councilor Charles Kronick opposed the new rate, and suggested dipping into Pittsfield’s savings to lower it.

“The tax bill, the $250,000 house, the average, median, probably, is going to experience $450 increase in their tax rates this year, which is on top of their water rates everything else," he said, "So what I'm saying is that we should not be giving that to the residents this year. And so, I'm saying we can take, reduce the amount that we're going to tax, bring it back to 94 like last year by taking $3 million on free cash.”

Mayor Linda Tyer rejected the idea outright.

“Let's start with the fiscal policy that we have established since we took office and were experiencing a significant fiscal crisis," she said. "One of our goals that we established in that recovery period was to build the city's reserves. We feel strongly that having reserves in the city's savings account is essential to address any unforeseen emergencies that may occur in the city during a budget period.”

Tyer noted that she had already agreed to use $1 million of free cash toward the city budget during negotiations with the council earlier in the year.

“I believed that that would be the end of the requests for free cash," she said. "At the moment, free cash is not yet certified by the Department of Revenue, so I can't make any commitments about any dollar amounts this evening. When free cash is certified, I anticipate coming to the city council for an appropriation of a significant dollar amount for body-worn cameras.”

Tyer pointed out that even if Pittsfield pours millions of dollars into keeping the tax rate lower, it would only amount to a drop in the bucket for ratepayers.

“The impact to the reserves of a $3 million appropriation is significant," said the mayor. "The impact of the tax rate or the taxpayer is not going to be hundreds of dollars, it's going to be something less than $1.”

A motion to use the $3 million in free cash fell short with just three yes votes.

The tax rate was approved by the council in a 7-3 vote, with Ward 7’s Anthony Maffuccio absent.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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