Governor Establishes Governor's Advisory Council on Veterans' Services

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BOSTON — Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Governor Maura Healey, joined by Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll and Secretary Jon Santiago, signed Executive Order #613, creating the Governor's Advisory Council on Veterans' Services to inform the Governor about veterans' issues in Massachusetts.
The Council will complement the work that Secretary Santiago and the recently elevated Executive Office of Veterans Services are doing to assess current programs, services, and regulations for veterans and make recommendations to the Governor. 
"Today's announcement signifies a major step in amplifying the voices and influence of Massachusetts' veterans," said Governor Healey. "In the few months since we established the Executive Office of Veterans' Services and appointed Secretary Santiago, we've made important progress to improve the state's support for and engagement with veterans and their families. This Council represents another step forward in our mission to prioritize the diverse experiences of our service members and will play a crucial role in our efforts to elevate veterans' services statewide." 
The Council represents Massachusetts' diverse veteran community, in terms of geographic region, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, immigration status and economic status. Secretary Santiago will be an ex officio Council member to keep the Executive Office of Veterans' Services informed. Governor Healey will appoint all Council members, including a Chair and a Chair of the Women's Advisory Council.  
"Our Administration remains committed to honoring the veterans of our Commonwealth by providing them with the respect, service, and benefits they have rightfully earned," said Lt. Governor Driscoll. "As the proud daughter of a Navy veteran, this Executive Order has deep personal meaning to me, and I look forward to seeing and supporting the important work that this council will do." 
Effective immediately, Executive Order #613 supersedes Executive Order #573, signifying a new chapter of progress and innovation. Upon appointment, each Council member will serve at the Governor's discretion in an advisory capacity for three years. In addition, the Council will convene at least quarterly and provide a comprehensive written report every two years, summarizing the remarkable initiatives they undertake. 
"The Healey-Driscoll Administration and the Executive Office of Veterans' Services stand firmly committed to supporting and engaging veterans of all backgrounds and zip codes,” said Veterans Secretary Jon Santiago. “The membership of this esteemed Council will encompass the diverse range of experiences among thousands of service members across our state.” 

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Pittsfield Council to Tackle Tax Rate, Zoning Amendment Proposals

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday will take up the fiscal 2024 tax classification and a proposed battery energy storage overlay district.

On the agenda are public hearings for both items, with the tax rate continuing from last month.

The administration has requested a commercial shift of 1.75 that would result in a residential rate of $18.45 per $1,000 of valuation and a commercial rate of $39.61 per $1,000. After several councilors expressed concern about raising taxes, it was tabled.

"You are driving people out of Pittsfield," Councilor at Large Karen Kalinowsky said at the late November meeting.

The residential rate for FY23 was $18.32 per $1,000 of valuation and the commercial, industrial, and personal property rate was $39.21. If the council adopts the FY24 shift, there would be a 13 cent, or 0.7 percent, increase for residential and a 40 cent, or one percent, increase for commercial, industrial, and personal property.

An average home valued at $267,914 would pay an estimated $4,943 in property taxes, representing a $397.82 increase from the previous year when the average home value was $248,100. This would amount to about $33 additional dollars a month.    

Commercial properties would see a less dramatic increase of about $145, as the assessed median value has only increased by $1,550 from FY23. This would result in a tax bill of $8,377.52 for the median commercial property.

The Community Development Board has brought forward an amendment to the Pittsfield Zoning Ordinance by adding a new section under Chapter 23 of the City Code, titled the "Battery Energy Storage System Overlay District.” 

This would allow Pittsfield to embrace greener energy sources while protecting the interests of residents.

The goal is to provide regulatory procedures for BESS and BESS facilities, outline the application process for site plan approval and special permit applications, specify which districts are comparable with the use, discuss site requirements for each district where it is permitted, and require that interested departments respond with comments and concerns within 14 days of the application.

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