Wednesday November 28, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The City Council wants the typical homeowner to pay a higher property tax bill than Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi proposed in order to make Pittsfield more business friendly.

By a 10-1 vote Tuesday night, with Ward 2 Councilor Kevin J. Morandi opposed, the council approved a residential property tax rate of $16.70 on every $1,000 of assessed property value. The existing rate is $16.11.

The owner of an average, single-family home assessed at $177,000 would see an increase of $104 -- from $2,861 to $2,965 -- in their annual tax bill. The rate proposed by Bianchi and the Board of Assessors would have carried a $65 increase.

The council also ap proved raising the commercial property tax rate from $32.85 to $34.48. However, a business own er with property valued at $511,000 (the citywide average) would see annual tax bills drop $164 from $17,772 to 17,608. City officials had proposed a $255 increase.

The majority of the council felt the city’s tax proposal would hurt the business community.

"For me, [the mayor’s plan] was going in the wrong direction," said Ward 6 Councilor John M. Krol Jr. "We need to show we are business friendly."

Bianchi felt his tax plan was a fair balance of the tax burden.

"I think the [the council’s] shift is too severe and puts too much burden on residential," he said.

The council rejected Bianchi’s property tax rate proposal after several local business owners and leaders balked at the mayor’s plan.


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They claimed it would prevent the city from attracting new businesses and possibly force others to move to a neighboring town.

"If I move a half a mile up the road, I can save $13,000 in taxes in a year," said Dennis Miller, who noted he pays $26,000 in taxes on commercial property along Crane Avenue.

The new tax rates will cover the current fiscal year --- from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2011. The assessors say the tax increases, when combined with other revenues, will fully fund the city’s $133.1 million budget.

City financial officials cite an improved cash flow for minimizing the impact of rising tax rates. Pittsfield Finance Director and Treasurer Susan Carmel had noted the city received $1.6 million more in state aid compared to fiscal 2012. In addition the City Council approved using $1.7 in surplus funds, compared to $1 million last year, toward lowering the increase in the property tax rates.

A increase in the city’s tax base also helped spread the tax burden, according to Paula King, chairwoman of the Board of Assessors.

Nevertheless, lower property values -- especially on the commercial side -- and a city spending plan that increased by nearly $4 million, necessitated a higher tax rate to raise $68.6 million in revenue toward the budget, according to city financial officials. Pittsfield relied on $66.3 million in property taxes to fund the fiscal 2012 spending plan of $129.3 million.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.

Inside the numbers ...

The Pittsfield City Council has approved a revised property tax rate to fund the city budget. These are new rates for the current fiscal year (2013) as compared with last fiscal year’s rate.

Fiscal ‘12 Fiscal ‘13 Change

Residential (per $1,000)

$16.11 $16.70 +$0.59

Avg. annual bill

$2,860.81 $2,965.13* +$104.32

* Based on single-family home valued at $177,553

Commercial (per $1,000)

$32.85 $34.48 +$1.63

Avg. annual bill

$17,772.61 $17,608.53** -$164.08

** Based on commercial property valued at $510,688.

Source: Pittsfield Board of Assessors