WORCESTER – At a widely anticipated meeting on Tuesday evening, the City Council voted for the lowest residential tax during its Tax Classification hearing.
The council, in a 6-4 margin voted for line 238 of the City’s Tax Rate Option table — meaning that the property tax for the FY2018 will comprise of a Residential Rate of $18.91 per $1,000 value and a Commercial Rate of $34.03 per $1,000. The residential rate will drop 31 cents below the FY2017 rate of $19.22 and the commercial rate will go up $1.12 from FY2017.
Mayor Joseph M. Petty, District 1 Councilor Tony Economou, District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera, and Councilor-at-Large Kate Toomey all voted against the measure.
During a very amicable debate, the City Council spoke favorably of the changes that City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. proposed to the budget, primarily the change to Double Elderly Abatement Program to provide elderly homeowners with $1,400 in property tax relief for the upcoming year.
Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes looked to get more tax relief for taxpayers by proposing the inclusion of $850,000 of free cash earmarked for the Worcester Public Schools and an additional $2,000,000 from the Healthcare Trust Fund into the budget.
Both measures were defeated, the Healthcare Trust Fund motion was ruled out of order by Mayor Petty, as it had been discussed and voted on previously.
As is always the case, there was much debate regarding whether to shift the burden to the residents or the business owners. All agreed that this was never an easy decision.
“It’s about being fair and being responsible,” Councilor-at-Large Khrystian King said about dealing with taxes.
Mayor Petty, who supported a measure that closed the gap, cited the City’s momentum and future expenditures as the reason to support a higher residential rate.
“We going to have a new South high school, a new Doherty high school, and potentially a new [baseball] stadium,” Petty said of the expenditures. “We have big ticket items on the horizon.”
Many members of the audience spoke on both sides of the issue, although the majority of residents took issue with the increase in the property assessments. One resident referred to it as a “double tax raise,” but at the end of the day, the support for the lowest residential tax rate was voted for.