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City Council raises business, property taxes for FY11

Date: 12/16/2010

Dec. 15, 2010

By Katelyn Gendron

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — A City Council majority passed a tax shift of 1.67, 0.01 lower than Mayor Richard Cohen's recommendation at its meeting on Dec. 6. The decision raised tax rates by $1.06 for residential properties and $1.25 for commercial, industrial and personal properties (CIP).

Cohen's proposed shift of 1.68 would have set the residential tax rate at $13.96, rather than the passed $14, and the CIP at $28.49, as opposed to the $28.32 for fiscal year 2011. The average tax bill will increase by approximately $90 for residential property owners and by about $200 for CIP owners.

"I'm disappointed that they council voted to put a greater burden on our residents than what I had recommended. I felt that the 1.68 that I had recommended was both fair and equitable for both residents and business," Cohen said.

Councilors James Cichetti, Gina Letellier, Jill Messick, Jill Simpson and John Walsh voted in favor of the shift, while Councilors George Bitzas, Joseph Mineo, Donald Rheault and Robert Rossi cast nay votes. Councilor Dennis Perry was absent.

Bitzas said he voted against the shift of 1.67 because he wanted to protect the homeowners during these difficult economic times. "If we could make it a little easier for the homeowners, that was my goal but the council didn't vote for that," he added.

Walsh said he was pleased with the rate passed by the City Council because it makes for a "more even split" between residential property and CIP.

"You have to also look at the business point of view because they might not be competitive and might leave. If you give businesses an even break you're encouraging them to expand in town and others to relocate others to town, which will help in the long run to bear more of the [tax] burden," he added.

Magovern called the vote a "lose-lose" because taxes had to increase no matter how much for either side.

"I wish that we didn't have to go up on taxes period. A tax increase was inevitable but this next year the budgets have to be looked at very, very closely. Next year is going to be very bad because of all the cuts to state funding," he added.

Magovern said he'd like to see additional cuts made wherever possible within the fiscal year 2012 (FY12) budget to prevent another tax increase next year. Cohen will present a recommended FY12 municipal budget to the City Council this spring before it must be ratified by June 30, 2011.

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