Time for Greenfield to split its tax rate

It’s that time: it’s time to set the property tax rate for the town of Greenfield.

For the past 20 years, this has followed the same process — raise property taxes across the board, as much as is allowed under Proposition 2½. Seems simple and fair?

Well, it is simple, but it’s just not fair.

During the past 10 years, your residential tax bills have risen from 2 percent to more than 5 percent each year, every year. However, many owners of commercial and industrial property have seen their tax bills decrease — that’s right, decrease — for five of those years. And, when commercial and industrial property tax bills do rise, they lag behind residential bills.

If you owned a house worth $378,000 in 2001 that sat right next door to a business that was worth $378,000, as a home-owner you would pay over $2,000 more a year now than that business, and you would have paid over $9,000 more than that business in total taxes. This isn’t fair. Data clearly shows that the property tax bill for a resident will double just about every 10 years, but it will take almost 50 years for the property tax bill to double on business property.

The current system is flawed, but the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has provided us with a tool to fix it: the split tax.

It’s not a radical idea. Forty-three out of the 51 cities in Massachusetts use the split tax.

And, it is a good idea.

Under my plan, Greenfield businesses would see a small increase in their annual tax bill for the next several years in order to correct some of the inequities of the past 20 years. Then, the Town Council would establish that the average tax bills for residents and businesses increased at the same rate every year. The same increase in tax bills for all types of property.

Equal increases.

Tax fairness.

You deserve a fair tax system. As residents, you deserve to be heard on this issue. I will be making a full presentation with data at the Greenfield Town Council’s Ways and Means meeting on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at GCTV studios, which will be followed by an opportunity for your input. There will also be a public hearing on the day of the Town Council vote, Nov. 29, 7 p.m., also at GCTV studios.

Please don’t miss this opportunity to let your voice be heard in support of a fair and equitable property tax system.

Mark Wisnewski is a Greenfield town councilor at-large.

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