New property tax rates have been set in the largest city in western Massachusetts. A majority of homeowners and businesses in Springfield are likely to see higher bills in the new year.
After failing to reach a consensus just 48 hours earlier, the Springfield City Council at a special meeting this week voted 10-2 to adopt the residential property tax rate recommended by Mayor Domenic Sarno that will result in an $81 rise in the annual tax bill for the average single family house.
While the tax rate for residential property will be unchanged, the tax rate for commercial and industrial property will go up by 2 cents with the median tax bill for businesses in the city increasing by $115.
Richard Allen, Chairman of the Board of Assessors told Councilors the mayor’s recommendation strikes a “fair balance” in dividing the tax burden between residents and businesses.
" I just want to reaffirm the mayor's recommended rate of $19.68 for residential property and $39.30 for commercial, industrial, and personal property," Allen said just before council's vote.
Following a public hearing Monday night, a motion to approve the mayor’s recommendation failed to pass the council by one vote. Two councilors, who were absent at the hearing, voted at the special meeting in favor of the rates proposed by the mayor. A councilor who voted no on the motion Monday did not attend the subsequent meeting.
City Councilor Tim Ryan, who chairs the Finance Committee, said homeowners can take comfort in the fact that while their tax bills may be increasing slightly, the equity in their property has grown.
" Nobody is ever happy ( with higher tax bills) but it is a much smaller increase than in the last 3-5 years," said Ryan.
The average value of a single family home in Springfield is $151,400, an increase of 19 percent in five years.
City Council President Orlando Ramos said he voted “no” because he said homeowners deserve a break.
" Folks are very frustrated with the fact that we are receiving revenue from MGM and we are not seeing any relief on our property taxes," Ramos said.
MGM is the city’s largest taxpayer. But city finance officials said the resort casino’s annual tax bill of $17 million will be reduced next year by several million dollars because MGM made advance payments to the city during the four years the almost $1 billion casino was being built.
City Councilor Marcus Williams also voted “no” citing a report he requested from the assessor’s office that showed the vast majority of homes in the Pine Point and 16 Acres neighborhoods he represents will receive higher tax bills.
"I just don't feel comfortable going back to my ward and telling my constituents your property taxes have risen when sometimes salaries haven't and with the senior population their income is stable from year to year," said Williams.
At Monday night’s public hearing, Springfield Regional Chamber President Nancy Creed urged councilors to approve a lower tax rate on commercial and industrial property.
She described Springfield businesses as being at “a tipping point” because of a scheduled increase in the minimum wage, rising health insurance costs, and a new payroll tax to fund a paid family leave program.