Greenfield sets single tax rate at $19.65

  • Greenfield City Council approved a single tax rate at $19.65 per $1,000 valuation for fiscal year 2023 during last week’s meeting at the John Zon Community Center. STAFF PHOTO/Mary Byrne

Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2022 8:23:16 PM

GREENFIELD — City Council has approved a single tax rate at $19.67 per $1,000 valuation for fiscal year 2023, a decrease of $2.67 over last fiscal year’s rate.

For the average single-family home, this will mean an average tax bill of roughly $5,070 in FY23, compared to $4,938 in FY22, according to the Assessor’s Office.

The council’s approval last week followed the recommendation of Chief Assessor Randal Austin, who advised the city to adopt a single tax rate across all classes of property. Greenfield is roughly 75% residential property, with 15% commercial, 2% industrial and 7% personal.

“We’ve got an unusual mix in Greenfield,” he said. “We do have some big box stores, like Home Depot and Big Y … but we’ve got a lot of smaller businesses and those businesses, (a split tax rate) is going to be much more of an impact.”

With this recommendation, he added, his office also did not recommend adopting a small commercial exemption.

“There are different cities and circumstances where that does make sense,” Austin explained, “but that’s usually when you have a larger commercial value.”

The tax rate was ultimately approved unanimously by councilors — with several councilors crediting Austin for a thorough presentation — but not before residents and officials aired concerns about the credibility of Board of Assessors Chair Joe Ruggeri. At least one city official called for the longtime board member’s resignation in light of accusations that he had demonstrated a failure to pull necessary building permits.

Resident Ryan Whitney told councilors that he recently witnessed building materials being brought into a house on Chapman Street, owned by Ruggeri, that didn’t appear to have a building permit. He said he notified City Council and then Building Inspector Mark Snow.

“The Ruggeri family owns many rental properties in our city,” Whitney said. “I wonder how fairly all of those homes are assessed, and what work has been done inside them.”

Snow confirmed it wasn’t the first time Ruggeri had started work before pulling the necessary permits and that it was a recurring issue, as suggested by speakers at City Council and the Ways and Means Committee meeting the night before. There were two incidents in the last two weeks, Snow said.

“We do run into people working without permits frequently, in general,” Snow commented.

Speaking by phone, Ruggeri said Whitney was referring to his property at 163 Chapman St. He said an application has been submitted and paid for at a cost of $340.

“I’m in the process of waiting for a building inspector to review and approve it, or make changes,” Ruggeri said.

Ruggeri added that he didn’t think it was fair to characterize his recent failures to pull building permits as a “recurring issue.”

“I mostly buy and sell property,” he said. “I don’t do a lot of renovations.”

Still, his peers emphasized the importance of accurately capturing the building permits that are pulled throughout the city for the purpose of accurately assessing all properties in Greenfield — a key factor in the tax rate calculation.

“We’re tipped off by the building permit process on all of the improvements in town,” Austin said. “If there’s new construction, we’re finding out about it. … Not every one is a value-changing permit, but we still need to make sure we’re on top of it.”

Board of Assessors member Jim Geisman added that the value of those building permits is as important as the act of pulling a permit.

Jean Wall, a member of School Committee, called for Ruggeri’s resignation.

“Building permits are also the vehicle used by the Assessor’s Office to be aware of changes in property values,” she said. “They should know if a new building is being constructed or totally renovated because it affects the assessed value of the property. As an elected official myself, I do feel we must be held to a higher standard than the ordinary citizen. Just as I would not have the right to ask for special treatment for my child in the schools, Joe does not have the right to not obey the rules governing building permits.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the difference in tax rate from fiscal year 2022 to fiscal year 2023. City Council approved a single tax rate at $19.67 per $1,000 valuation for fiscal year 2023, a decrease of $2.67 over last fiscal year’s rate.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.


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