Fiscal thoughts

One or two decades can seem like forever in politics. But there are constants, repeating themes, in presidential campaigns.

Like the economy.

It’s an issue that’s certainly at the forefront of the current presidential campaign as President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney seek to persuade voters heading toward next month’s vote.

It’s also an question that is helping to define the U.S. Senate race here in Massachusetts as well as the campaigns for state legislative office. And even in Greenfield, where the upcoming national and statewide election does not include a mayoral contest, the economy is very much on the minds of residents ... and that of Mayor William Martin.

Specifically, we’re referring to some recent comments made by Martin about future town budgets.

“We’ve kept our head above water, but 2014 is going to be a year when we are going to have to take a hard look at where our revenues are and what it will take to sustain them,” Martin recently told the Greenfield Town Council.

One of the changes the mayor sees on the financial front that’s headed Greenfield’s way involves revaluation of property in town.

“You are going to see a reduction in the 2- to 4-percent range for residential and 6 to 8 percent for commercial,” Martin said. “And what that’s going to do is reduce the revenue. And that means when you go to raise money for your budget, you have to raise the rate.”

What Martin anticipates should bring into focus the bigger financial picture of the need to expand the town’s tax base, which then shades the thinking on a couple of matters before the town.

One would be what to do with the Lunt Silversmiths property, should the town successfully complete acquisition of the former factory site. Given what the mayor is predicting, we’d like to think that consideration of taking the property that housed the factory and retail space off the tax rolls for some kind of municipal use, like a combined police/fire station, would be dropped. We would think that it’s an inviting location for offices, retail or some combination, thus allowing it to produce tax revenue.

And this also isn’t the time for a split tax rate between business and residential properties. Moving to different rates at this point would only serve to hurt existing business, where too many have tight margins, and possibly give other businesses pause about entering the Greenfield market.

In either case, if the facts and figures make sense to do otherwise, then they are worth considering.

But we urge Mayor Martin and the Greenfield Town Council to keep the big economic picture in mind in tweaking the tax structure or taking property off the tax rolls.

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