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Council divided on tax shift

Date: 12/1/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM -- There's some division among City Councilors about whether to support to oppose Mayor Susan Dawson's recommended tax shift.

Assessor Kevin Baldini will present the figures at the annual tax classification hearing on Dec. 9 for public opinion and possible adoption by the City Council. The proposed figures would raise residential properties from 12.07 to 12.94 as well as raise commercial, industrial and personal (CIP) properties from 26.04 to 27.07, creating a shift of 1.71.

"If I had gone with anything greater than this, the recession we're in would have forced small businesses out of business," Dawson told Reminder Publications. "There really needs to be a balance in order to maintain businesses because they still shoulder a major portion of our taxes. If I shift more to them, I'm going to run them out of business. This seemed to be the most equitable [shift for all]."

Baldini explained the tax shift is based on figures from 2008. He noted residential and CIP properties decreased by 2.5 percent and two percent, respectively.

City Councilor George Bitzas said he does not support Dawson's recommendation because the taxes should be lower for homeowners.

"I'm going to support the lowest residential rate as allowed by the state as I promised in my campaign," he added. "In this economy, with all the foreclosures and the increasing taxes, homeowners deserve the lowest possible [tax rate] allowed by law."

According to City Council President Gina Letellier, "the key is always to strike the right balance" between residential and CIP property taxes.

When asked if she supported Bitzas' point of view, she replied, "I don't know if his thoughts are the best way to share the [financial] burden."

Letellier explained she is in favor of keeping the residential rate as low as possible; however, businesses cannot always shoulder the brunt of the town's taxes.

The City Council will conduct its annual tax classification hearing on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Agawam Middle School auditorium.