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In the Arena: It may be time for council to face split tax rate

  • COLLINS


Thursday, October 12, 2017

It was Eugene O’Neill who said “there is no present or the future, just the past happening over and over again.”

That certainly seems to be the case in Greenfield, where no matter how hard we try to bury them, certain issues seem to just pop up every few years. The most recent example is whether to split the town’s tax rate, and force business owners to assume more of the share of the burden.

“I really think it’s going to come up this year,” At-Large Councilor and candidate for re-election Penny Ricketts said recently. “In my heart, I don’t really want to do it, but I’m not sure how we are going to get around it.”

Historically, this council has been able to avoid splitting the rate because of the potential impact on business owners. Though there was no real evidence to support it, the argument has always been that businesses would flood out of Greenfield if forced to pay more, and those that might choose to come here won’t if the rate is split.

There was also the secondary argument that a split rate would resurrect the age-old label that Greenfield is “anti-business,” a reputation that this town has gone to great lengths to shake over the past two decades.

That was then, however. Today, the council now has a much bigger problem, namely a rapidly increasing burden on residential taxpayers. Greenfield’s tax rate remains among the highest in the commonwealth, despite having home prices that have proven to be pretty attractive to new buyers.

Despite relatively low property values, people are seeing their tax bills go up while the town continues to spend money on a lot of big-ticket items not everyone agrees are completely necessary. And while the current council leadership has done its best to try to hold the line on spending — while taking a beating for it politically, I might add — it doesn’t seem to be enough to lower the burden, which may mean it’s time for Greenfield to do what was once unthinkable: split the rate.

I don’t know if this new council will be willing to go there, but it’s something its going to have to at least consider come January.

Endorsements

We’re only a couple of weeks out from the Greenfield annual town election, and the endorsements are starting to tumble in, including a surprise one in Precinct 7, where incumbent William Childs has thrown his support behind the guy he defeated two years ago to win that seat, Dan Viorel-Oros.

Oros said Childs was the first one to sign his nomination papers, and also revealed that he actually voted for Oros, not himself, two years ago in a race Childs won by only eight votes.

Make of that what you will.

A group making its first foray into the Greenfield arena is the “Franklin County Continuing The Political Revolution” better known as “Franklin County CPR,” an organization composed mostly of Bernie Sanders supporters looking to capitalize on the progressive momentum generated by his unsuccessful presidential bid.

CPR has endorsed a full slate of candidates, which include Oros’ Precinct 7 opponent Otis Wheeler, Tim Dolan in Precinct 5, Doug Mayo in Precinct 8, Sheila Gilmour in Precinct 6, and Bob Cooley, write-in candidate for school committee.

The Greenfield Democratic Town Committee has been more deliberate in its endorsements, deciding so far to back only Dolan, Wheeler, Gilmore and Mayo, with more likely to come between now and Election Day, Nov. 7.

EMS mea culpa

I’ve covered the town of Deerfield long enough to know that things are not always as they seem, a lesson I conveniently forgot in my recent entry regarding the new facility constructed by Deerfield Academy for the South County EMS.

In that piece, I wrote that the effort to construct the new facility was largely the handiwork of Selectman Henry “Kip” Komosa, who several months back began pushing the idea of a deal with D.A. to keep the ambulance service from moving to Whately.

It turns out there was a lot more to the story, especially the involvement of town Building Commissioner Dick Calisewski and Police Chief John Paciorek Jr., both of whom have been bird-dogging the project for the better part of a year.

“They did a lot of work on this, especially Dick,” Deerfield Selectboard Chairwoman Carolyn Ness said. “And a lot of credit should also go to the academy, for sticking with this project, which may end up costing more than we thought.”

I’d say. The original estimate was $400,000, but it could be twice that when all is said and done, according to Ness.

“There were a lot of things that had to come together to make this work,” Ness said. “Something this size is never about just one person.”

Lesson learned — again. Next time, I’ll make sure to remember it.

Chris Collins is the Franklin County News Bureau Chief for WHAI, WPVQ and WHMP Radio. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder, and is a Greenfield native.