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Council passes shift raising property taxes

Date: 12/15/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM -- A City Council majority voted in favor of Mayor Susan Dawson's proposed 1.71 tax shift at its meeting last Wednesday.

City Council President Gina Letellier and Councilors George Bitzas, Joseph Mineo, Dennis Perry, Donald Rheault and Jill Simpson voted in favor of the shift, which raises residential properties from 12.07 to 12.94 and raises commercial, industrial and personal (CIP) properties from 26.04 to 27.07.

City Council Vice President Cecilia Calabrese and Councilors Paul Cavallo and Jill Messick voted against the proposed shift. Councilors Robert Rossi and Robert Young were absent.

"I really felt we could have taken the opportunity to shift the burden further from our businesses," Messick told Reminder Publications. "[The shift of] 1.71 is very fair and a reduction from 1.75 but we could have taken a few steps further."

She noted the decreasing property values throughout town, a trend which will likely continue next year, should have played a larger role in the decision making.

Calabrese explained she could not vote in favor of the shift because it helps to supplement overspending throughout town.

"I wasn't going to go along to get along," she said of her no vote. "I think [City Assessor] Kevin Baldini came up with a very fair formula [for the shift]. Had I been in favor of the [fiscal year 2010] budget, I would have thought the shift would have been appropriate. There's too much burden on the taxpayers in order to supplement the budget."

Bitzas noted he could not get enough support from other councilors to reduce the shift to 1.70 and to lessen the tax burden on homeowners.

"Even with my proposal to favor residents, the businesses would still be [paying] less than other businesses in towns in other areas," he said. "I would love to see no increase at all but it's not possible."