Look Ahead, Pittsfield: Tax tiff trudges on, highlighting political divide

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PITTSFIELD — The holiday season is here, but we likely won't be feeling any cheer coming from council chambers this week.

Councilors will resume their contentious discussion of a proposed tax rate increase during a special meeting on Tuesday — a meeting that Council President Peter Marchetti called after last week's regularly scheduled one ended in stalemate.

The issue divided the council during the last meeting, and the one before it, over how to handle the tax rate increase proposed by Mayor Linda Tyer. At issue is how much of the city's free cash base should be used to balance the budget and reduce taxpayers' share.

The more free cash that the city's leaders decide to use, the lower the city's property tax rates become. Meantime, the city's auditors discourage officials from regularly using free cash in this way, as it otherwise fuels the city's reserves.

During the election season, Tyer outlined the need for a new police station and pointed to several school buildings screaming for attention. Addressing these issues would be costly.

The tax rate tiff also underscores a political divide decades in the making. Politicians on one side prioritize fiscal responsibility, while those on the other see a need to take financial risks in the name of progress.

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As the debate trudges on, we can expect last words from outgoing councilors Melissa Mazzeo, Donna Todd Rivers, John Krol and Tony Simonelli, who will step down at the end of this month. Assuming no more special meetings become necessary this year, the City Council meeting on Dec. 10 will be the last time the body meets in its current form.

And will there be more news from Mazzeo's corner this week? The mayoral challenger and her legal team said they would decide how to proceed regarding what they perceive as election irregularities in the days following last week's mayoral recount. Mazzeo has raised questions about the presence of Barry Clairmont — Tyer's husband and campaign treasurer — in the City Clerk's Office while voters submitted absentee ballots.

Heads up

The tree-lighting ceremony, set for 6 p.m. Friday in Park's Square, will kick off a two-day Festive Frolic organized by Downtown Pittsfield Inc. Family-friendly activities include an evening edition of the Berkshire Museum's Festival of Trees, as well as arts and crafts throughout downtown.

Festivities also include the North Pole Pub Crawl. The pub crawl schedule and a full list of Festive Frolic activities can be found at downtownpittsfield.com.

The fun continues on Saturday, with an appearance from Santa Claus from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Beacon Cinema, snowman story time at the Berkshire Athenaeum (starting at 10:15 a.m.), a holiday craft fair at Zion Lutheran Church, and holiday-themed performances at the Colonial Theatre and Barrington Stage Company.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, or by phone at 413-496-6296.


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