The MA Tax Ceiling: To Raise or not to Raise

At the last town meeting on June 23, residents rejected the warrant that would allow the Town of Longmeadow to ask the state to raise the tax ceiling. This means the Town couldn’t explore the option of lobbying the state, causing some division in town.

 Select Board member Mark Gold thinks that there will be an effort to put it on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant in May of 2021, as long as that meeting is not restricted by COVID-19. Mr. Don Holland, Chair of the Longmeadow Planning Board and Vice Chair of the LCTV Board of Directors, who spoke against the proposal at the special town meeting, says that “It’s not the time to raise people’s taxes, the town needs to tighten its belt and be more in tune to its constituents.  During the pandemic a lot of people are out of jobs or making less money, a lot of companies lessening the payrolls.”

The Town of Longmeadow is a very developed town, meaning most of the land has buildings or businesses on it. While this would usually be a good thing in other states, Longmeadow has a looming problem: hitting the tax ceiling.

The tax rate and taxes are distinctly different, as Gold phrases it, “Raising the tax rate has nothing to do with raising taxes.” The tax rate is the percentage that Longmeadow is allowed to tax its residents.

The price of a property depends on the quality of the land and whatever is developed on it. So, the more expensive and developed a building on a property is, the more expensive the plot is. Longmeadow has very few empty lots and undeveloped areas, so the town cannot raise the tax rate the common way as with other towns. Hitting the tax ceiling would mean limiting how much money the town would receive. 

Longmeadow has a budget that is 85% people, and as Gold puts it, “[If Longmeadow hits the tax ceiling] it’s going to hurt everybody. We would be laying off police officers, we’d be laying off firefighters, we’d be laying off DPW workers.”

When asked about possible solutions, he responded, “There’s a dozen things you can look at, but if you look at the first 11 of them they give you just a few years of relief, and maybe the 12th one which is the property values go up, but can you pin the future of Longmeadow on property values going up?”

Mr. Gold hopes it can be added to the warrant, which requires three of the five members of the Select Board. There is no re-vote scheduled for the Town Meeting on October 27, but the topic is still open for the Annual Town Meeting in May. The final decision has yet to be made.

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