Mayor Martin: Greenfield Town Council split-tax votes invalid



Recorder Staff
Friday, December 01, 2017

GREENFIELD — Town government can’t seem to close the deal on split tax rates.

Mayor William Martin says the Town Council votes taken on Wednesday, intended to shift the property tax burden from homeowners to commercial and industrial property, are invalid. The mayor opposed those votes and had actually vetoed an earlier version of the same measure.

The mayor said Friday that the two tax classification votes are not valid because the council was supposed to vote on a total of four classifications due to a recent change created by the Municipal Modernization Act.

“We can take some of the votes and continue the hearing, but you cannot close the hearing and set a tax rate unless you have taken all four,” Martin said.

Due to the delay that this will cause in setting a tax rate, tax bills cannot be sent out until May, Martin asserted.

The mayor said there will likely be an informational meeting for everyone involved, including town councilors, the executive branch, and the town assessor and accountant, to review how the process works. That meeting will be followed by public hearings, Martin said, allowing the community to weigh in.

“We can do all of that between January and June of 2018,” he said.

Meanwhile, the council president, who favors splitting the tax rate, has expressed frustration with the mayor’s leadership, saying there is no agreement about whether Wednesday’s votes were legal or illegal.

“Frankly, I’m not releasing any votes from the office until our town attorney gives us the opinion of what we should do,” Council President Brickett Allis said. “It’s very frustrating to be operating under this mayor, who changes the rules of the game every single time we do something.”

Allis said Friday was the first time he heard that four tax classification votes had to be made.

“Why didn’t they put that in with their original motions, then? That’s perfect proof that they didn’t know, either,” he said of the mayor’s office, adding, “No one seems to know what’s going on.”

The council voted 6-4 to adopt a split tax rate during a special meeting Wednesday, shifting the tax burden from residential to all other classes of property by a factor of 1.0808.

This came after the council voted 9-2 to split the tax rate earlier last month, but the vote was voided after the town clerk discovered the wrong date was printed on the assessor’s public hearing notice for the meeting. The mayor also vetoed the tax classification votes made during that meeting.

Allis said there is still debate about whether the mayor’s vetoes stand, and the council is scheduled to hold a special meeting Tuesday night to vote on whether to override the vetoes. Eight votes, or two-thirds of the council, are needed to override a veto.

“Basically what we’re doing is we have to continue to go on every single thing that we go on because we don’t know what is and isn’t legal,” Allis said.

He also expressed frustration with one of the mayor’s executive orders that prevents councilors from contacting department heads themselves, instead directing all questions to go through the council president to the mayor’s office.

Allis said obtaining information directly from the chief assessor would have made the process easier.

“We rely on him and the assessors to give us information; we asked for all of this information in September, and he (Martin) withheld it from us; he withheld everything from us,” Allis said. “He would not give it to us, and then he was mad at the assessor for giving us information.”

Martin said the delay in setting the tax rate will likely cost the town some money.

“We may have enough to get through until May, we may have to go use money from stabilization,” he said. “We’re in the process of calculating the cost, we’ll have to self finance for about four to five months.”