The City Council will have another go at the city’s new tax rate at a special meeting scheduled for tonight, at 5:15 p.m. in the City Council chambers.
The meeting will include a public speak-out period (for those residents and business owners who will actually show up at a meeting scheduled for the evening of New Year’s Eve).
The Council already met on Tuesday evening to vote on Mayor Domenic Sarno’s proposal to raise the residential tax rate to $19.42 per $1,000 of property value (from its current $17.89), and the business tax rate to $39.49 per $1,000 of value (from its current $36.98). The meeting, however, ended in a 4-to-4 deadlock, with Councilors Kateri Walsh, Bill Foley, Rosemarie Mazza Moriarty and Jose Tosado supporting the new rates, and Councilors Pat Markey, Tim Rooke, Jimmy Ferrera Jr. and Bud Williams in opposition. (The Council’s ninth—and tie-breaking—member, Bruce Stebbins, was absent.)
Rooke, meanwhile, has been pushing for a 30-day extension for setting the tax rate. Traditionally, municipalities must set their rates for the coming fiscal year by Dec. 31. A special act passed by the state Legislature on Dec. 15, however, allows communities to take an additional 30 days, without penalty. Rooke says the extension would allow more time for public input—rather than seek it during the busy holiday season—and would also allow the nine newest Council members, who will be sworn in on Jan. 4, the opportunity to vote on the rate. Of the current nine councilors, only four—Rooke, Tosado, Ferrera and Walsh—will be returning next term.
In addition, Markey has asked City Hall’s finance team to look into whether an additional $900,000 in tax revenue that was not anticipated at the beginning of the fiscal year might be used to offset the tax increase.
The City Council would need to approve the 30-day extension. Rooke had hoped to see that vote taken at Tuesday’s meeting, but ran into what he calls “blockades” from Sarno and Foley, the Council president. Rooke said he had secured support from four other colleagues—Markey, Ferrera, Williams and Mazza Moriarty—and that all confirmed their support for a special meeting to vote on the matter via phone calls to the City Council office. But according to an email Rooke subsequently received from the City Council staff, “Bill Foley has said in order to have a Special Meeting by 5 Councilors, that it has to be in writing with their original signatures and not proxy signatures.”
“I am sure a note from your Mother will suffice,” an exasperated Rooke wrote in an email to his fellow councilors.