The Hoosac River Revival Coalition is hoping to reimagine the Hoosac River.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday approved a tax classification that will see the average homeowner's taxes increase about $170.
The vote wasn't unexpected; Mayor Richard Alcombright and councilors had discussed the necessity of raising taxes to cover shortfalls in state aid and the agreement reached over the Medical Insurance Trust Fund.
The classification sets the residential tax rate at $14 per $1,000 valuation, or 12.2 percent more than last year's $12.44; the commercial rate will be $31.49, up 11 percent over last year's $27.92. The shift was set at 1.75, which dropped the residential burden for raising the $12.9 levy from 77 percent to 60 percent. If the city had adopted a single rate, commercial and residential would both have been billed at $17.99 per $1,000.
The average home in the city is assessed at $135,117, which means a tax bill of $1,891.64; last year's average home was assessed at $138,963, with a tax bill of $1,728.
The council approved it unanimously, with Councilor Keith Bona absent.
Resident Robert Cardimino said he couldn't understand why the overall valuation of property had dropped 2 percent when he had seen slow sales and houses near him drop in price considerably. He thought it should be 20 percent.
Assessor Greg Betti said all sale figures are reported by the banks; those of "full and fair cash value" are factored into the ongoing revaluation of all properties and sent to the state Department of Revenue for review.
"The assessments are based on comparable sales from the prior calendar year. Those assessments and those values have been checked and sent to the Department of Revenue," the mayor said. "Those figures are what they are."
"If values go down, rates go up; if values go up rates go down," he continued, "to raise the same amount you need for your budget."
Alcombright again warned that the city was facing a tough year ahead. It is going into fiscal 2012 with a $1.2 million structural deficit that could hit closer to $3 million if the anticipated cuts in state aid of up to 10 percent go through.
"The mayor has made it clear that nothing would be left off the table, including cuts in sevices and personnel in the next budget cycle," said Councilor Michael Bloom, chairman of the Finance Committee.
Information on the tax rate and how it is set can be found in the sidebar; clicking on the "budget" category will bring up an article on Monday's Finance Committee.
The council also heard an update from the Hoosac River Revival Coalition, a group of residents and organizations trying to reintegrate the river and the city.
The group's founder, Judith Grinnell, said its consultants had prepared a 50-page report based on the community discussion held in June that drew 85 people. An executive summary is being prepared and will be sent to the council.
In September, Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for public works and civilian overseer of all Army Corps of Engineers works, toured several sites along the flood control chutes with some of her staff.
Founder Judith Grinnell said the group will be searching for grants. An earmark for $1 million has been placed in the federal water resources bill by U.S. Rep. John W. Olver.
"I think it was a trip that created a lot of interest among the Corps people who came," said Lauren Stevens, a coalition board member, "especially Ms. Darcy, whose mother lives in Pittsfield."
Darcy's sister lives in Fitchburg, one of the three samples Grinnell and Stevens showed of changes to flood chutes. Grinnell said the hope is to lower the depth of the concrete chutes and naturalize them to make them more accessible as well as more habitable to fish.
The coalition envisions sites along the river - Willow Dell, Eclipse Mill, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Noel Field - linked by greenways, bike and foot paths and parks.
In other business:
The council referred to the Public Services Committee an ordinance on licensing fees for commercial waste haulers to transport materials through and to North Adams. The Board of Health had enacted the fee but the language sent to the council was ambiguous as to whether it applied to the hauler or the vehicle. The ordinance referred to committee was rewritten by Councilor Gailanne Cariddi.
It also referred the matter of honoring Lue Gim Gong to the Community Development Committee. Cariddi had submitted a communication on behalf of local historian Paul Marino, who had asked that Summer Street between Ashland and Church streets be named for the horticulturist.
Resident Robert Cardimino said that while he appreciated Lue's work in developing citrus, the naturalized citizen had come to the city as a strikebreaker and done his horticultural work in Florida. "Do we want to honor a man who participated in a strike?" he said. "I think not."
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.