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Councilors think split tax referendum good idea

GREENFIELD — At least half of Greenfield’s town councilors would like to see the question of a split tax rate for the town go before voters next year.

“Let the people decide,” said At-large Town Councilor Patrick Devlin.

Precinct 1 Councilor Marian Kelner said she is in favor of putting the question out to the voters.

“I want see what kind of interest and passion there is for the issue,” she said.

Kelner said before a vote is taken, more research should be done on what types of split tax rates there are and what would work best for the town.

Vice President and At-large Councilor Mark Wisnewski, who brought his proposal for a split tax rate before the full council this year, said he would like for the voters to decide.

“I hope it ends up on the ballot,” said Wisnewski. “It would save a lot of work for us as we try to find out how the majority of people here in town feel.”

Many business owners spoke out against Wisnewski’s proposal and only one resident, former At-large Town Councilor Alfred Siano, spoke publicly in favor of the proposal.

Town Council voted 8-3 at the end of November against changing from a single to a split tax rate.

President David Singer did not vote. He said he only votes to break a tie.

Precinct 7 Councilor Karen “Rudy” Renaud said she suggested the question be put to a townwide vote at the council’s last meeting.

“I put it out there as an option,” said Renaud. “I voted against a split tax rate this year, but I’d love to know what the rest of the town thinks.”

Precinct 2 Councilor Keith Zaltzberg said he supports Renaud’s suggestion.

“This has come up every year for so many years,” said Zaltzberg. “It makes sense to let everyone weigh in. It has been decided each year in the echo chamber of the council, Town Hall and local businesses. I want to know what the broader community thinks.”

Precinct 4 Councilor Steven Ronhave said he strongly favors putting the question out to voters.

“We’d get a better feel for what everyone in town wants,” said Ronhave, who voted against a split tax rate this year. “We want to look at both the short- and long-term effects to the town, also.”

Precinct 9 Councilor Norman Hirschfeld said he’d like to see the voters of Greenfield have their say.

“It’s a good idea,” said Hirschfeld. “We need to educate people on the matter so that they know what they are voting for or against — so they get to hear both sides before they vote. I guess we’ll see if there ends up being a movement to get it on the ballot.”

“The council has the authority to put a non-binding question on the ballot,” said Greenfield Town Clerk Maureen Winseck.

She said she thinks the only other way to get the question on the ballot would be for citizens to petition for a referendum within 30 days of a Town Council vote.

For instance, after the council votes on the town’s tax rate next year, citizens would have 30 days to collect signatures for a petition, which would need to be signed by 5 percent of the total number of voters in town as of the date of the most recent general election.

The council would then have to decide whether to rescind its vote, and if it did, the question would go to the voters.

If 25 percent of voters showed up to vote on the issue, the result would become binding.

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