Greenfield Town Council VP wants split tax rate

  • MASS Recorder file photo

  • The Greenfield Town Hall Recorder File Photo/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Monday, November 13, 2017

GREENFIELD — Citing the high tax burden residential owners are under, Town Council Vice President Isaac Mass has proposed a split tax rate for Greenfield.

In a motion sent to the council Monday, Mass proposed that the council adopt a split tax rate with a residential factor of one and a factor of 1½ for all other classes of property — including commercial, industrial and personal property — for Fiscal Year 2018.

“All councilors are aware of the very high tax burden residential owners are under,” Mass wrote in a rationale attached to his motion. “In the last 15 years, while tax bills have almost doubled, wages have only increased 35 percent. This means, where the average homeowner in Greenfield once spent a little more than 6 percent of their income on local property taxes, they now spend almost 10 percent.”

Mass said Greenfield has one of the highest tax burdens in the state, which he believes has resulted in a declining population.

“We have an aging population on fixed incomes, unable to keep pace with tax inflation, forced to sell their lifelong homes, take reverse mortgages or have their homes taken by tax title,” he wrote. “The problem is serious, and something has to be done.”

In addition to splitting the tax rate, Mass said Greenfield can lower taxes by allowing more big box development to expand the tax base and by reducing town spending. However, he noted, both efforts have been relatively unsuccessful in recent years.

Mass said that historically, the rationale against adopting a split tax rate in town has been the low volume of commercial and industrial property in Greenfield, which means that a large split would be required to have an impact on homeowners. Mass added that the idea of a single rate was also seen as attractive to businesses.

Mass said that though he has been opposed to a split tax rate in the past, Greenfield has not been successful at spurring tax base development and limiting municipal spending over the last two decades.

“In fact, during the same period, we have seen taxes markedly rise, while wages have been relatively stagnant and population has declined,” he wrote. “With no hope of a redoubled effort to bring in large scale development or reduce services on the horizon, residential taxpayers continue to suffer.”

Mass calculated that the proposed split rate would save the average residential homeowner with a valuation of $185,000 approximately $740 this year. That savings, he said, would spur spending at local businesses, helping commercial taxpayers most impacted by the change.