Wednesday, June 19, 2024

News and Ideas Worth Sharing

HomeViewpointsLettersCandidate Bill Cooke...

Candidate Bill Cooke endorses residential exemption — not split rate — tax reform

Reducing taxes on most of the homes in town is not going to reduce real estate values in a way that should concern anyone. It is going to make the town more affordable. My concern is with the families who live and work in town. The police officers, the firefighters, teachers and the people who plow and maintain our roads, the people who work in the shops and restaurants, in the hospital and the nursing homes — without them this town could not function.

To the editor:

Indeed, I do support the residential exemption proposed by Michael Wise. This plan will provide needed tax relief to a great majority of the homeowners in town, and will provide the most help to those of us with the fewest resources. I believe that, as a community, we have a responsibility to help our neighbors when we can.

However, I would prefer not to include the split-rate option in his proposal, which increases the commercial tax rate. I made that clear at the Candidates Forum and on the Berkshire Record’s interview on CTSB. Local merchants have enough to deal with given the disruption of the Main Street reconstruction this year, and I want to encourage economic development.

Yes, there will be some initial administrative expenses, primarily in the assessor’s office, but nothing that will require additional full-time permanent staff. This plan is perfectly legitimate and has been in use by many towns for several years. Lawsuits would be frivolous — and very unlikely.

Most of our older, local, full-time residents who acquired their homes in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s don’t live in homes that are assessed at more than the break-even amount. For those who do, and whose incomes are now reduced, there are several state programs that could provide tax relief. These programs are described in Mr. Wise’s proposal.

Reducing taxes on most of the homes in town is not going to reduce real estate values in a way that should concern anyone. It is going to make the town more affordable. My concern is with the families who live and work in town. The police officers, the firefighters, teachers and the people who plow and maintain our roads, the people who work in the shops and restaurants, in the hospital and the nursing homes — without them this town could not function. They should not have to go as far as Hillsdale or Canaan in order to be able to afford to buy a home.

I don’t want to live in a town that is comprised of 50 percent to 60 percent seasonal, second-home owners. I do appreciate that many second-home owners are great people who contribute to the community in many ways, but I want Great Barrington to remain a year-round community where local, working families can afford to live. If second home owners choose to live in Alford, Stockbridge, or any of the surrounding towns, they will still be coming to Great Barrington to shop in our stores and go to the theater and dine in our restaurants. I’m not worried.

I agree that the Regional School District needs to be redone, but we need to have all three towns in agreement. Great Barrington cannot force change on the other two towns. However, I think that we will get the other towns to the table this year and create a more equitable arrangement.

Certainly, if we can cut the town’s budget without cutting services, we should do it. But consolidation and increasing efficiency will result in incremental changes at best. The only way to make significant reductions in the budget is by cutting services and/or jobs. I will repeat Ed Abrahams’s perpetual question: What services should we eliminate?

I think we may be able to find ways to save by collaborating with the surrounding towns, but these things will take some time to work out. The Residential Exemption tax plan can be implemented more quickly and provide some tax relief where it is needed most.

Great Barrington is certainly not a sinking ship. Our town is in excellent financial shape as evidenced by our bond rating.

Our elected board and committee members are not some foreign power. They are elected, and most of them have been re-elected several times. They are our neighbors, who live here and pay taxes just like everyone else. They are the people who have been willing to step up to represent the residents of Great Barrington and do the work of running the town — and I would be proud to serve with them.

I am happy to discuss my platform with anyone.

Bill Cooke

Great Barrington

The writer is a candidate for the Great Barrington Selectboard.

Get Daily Updates From The Berkshire Edge!

spot_img

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

Continue reading

PETER MOST: A more PURDfect design

Since no one is making any more developable land here, let’s design thoughtfully and maximize use wisely. Let the experts be in charge.

I WITNESS: Yiddishkeit

If someone in Hollywood were to make a musical about both sides of my family, they would have to call it “Schindler on the Roof.” That’s how good my Jew cred is.

Please help support vulnerable members of your community by supporting The People’s Pantry

For many of our neighbors, it is not an optimistic time as they face a daily battle with food insecurity. They can’t afford the basic, healthy foods that many of us take for granted.

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.