Pittsfield waives tax penalties, extends deadlines amid coronavirus crisis

The Pittsfield City Council has set tax rates for the fiscal year.

PITTSFIELD — Homeowners will receive a slightly lower tax rate, but because of rising home values, that won’t necessarily shake out to savings.

By an 8-2 vote, with City Council President Peter Marchetti absent, councilors approved a residential tax rate of $19.25 per $1,000 of assessed value. The new rate represents a 46 cent decrease, or just over 2.3 percent, compared with the previous year.

Paula King, chair of the Board of Assessors, said the value of an average single-family home in Pittsfield has increased nearly 5 percent, and now is a few thousand dollars above $200,000.

The newly set rate means the average single-family homeowner will pay $3,925 in real estate taxes on a house with an assessed value of $203,901 — up more than $95.

Pittsfield is one of a number of Massachusetts communities that shifts the tax burden toward business and industry. With the councilors’ vote Tuesday, the commercial tax rate was set at $39.99 per $1,000 of assessed value, a 37-cent decrease, or less than 1 percent, compared with the previous year.

A commercial taxpayer at the middle of the pack can expect a $7,566 tax bill, almost double what the single-family homeowner will pay.

Councilors took part in their first pandemic tax classification session, held not in person, but via videoconference, as the city’s public boards and commissions approached their seventh month of holding public meetings remotely.

The overall new growth of $61,217,511, such as new construction and an increase in personal property assets, was boosted, in part, by gains in taxable property reported by larger companies including Eversource and Spectrum. Pittsfield’s tax levy was nearly $91.8 million.

Home affordability

Councilors Patrick Kavey, Earl Persip III, Anthony Maffuccio and Helen Moon expressed concern about how residential sales during the coronavirus pandemic appeared to be increasing the cost of buying a home in the city.

Kavey floated the idea of trying to capture more revenue from those who are purchasing a second home in Pittsfield, saying that when the pandemic touched down in the region, three homes in his neighborhood went on the market and sold within a day or two.

Second-home owners in Pittsfield are subject to paying personal property taxes, unlike those whose primary domicile is in the city, King said.

Persip said he and others he knows have been looking to buy a home and found that decent properties are going for top dollar. He said homes are being bought by people living in larger cities who could pay higher prices than might be attainable for locals.

“What we’re going to have is, local people are scrambling — I know a few people personally — who can’t find a home to buy because everything is so overpriced,” Persip said. “I think we need to start thinking about how we protect people who are currently living here who were born here.”

Councilors Chris Connell and Kevin Morandi said they could not support the tax rate, as they both voted against Mayor Linda Tyer’s budget. Connell said he did not believe the City Council did enough during budget season to reduce the tax burden on residents.

Residents already are contending with rising sewer and water rates, said Morandi, who agreed that officials didn’t show the public they did everything they could to help them out taxwise, like sacrificing salary raises. He did not mention anyone by name, but he was one of five councilors who tried unsuccessfully to block Tyer from taking a $2,462 raise in June.

“There’s only so much money out there,” Morandi said. “People are really struggling right now.”

Tuesday’s City Council meeting continued past press time, and councilors had not yet taken action on Tyer’s exterior home loan proposal called At Home in Pittsfield or the business incentive package she proposed for United Aircraft Technologies.

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.

Cops and Courts Reporter

Amanda Burke is Cops and Courts Reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.