BOSTON (WWLP) - Mayor Domenic Sarno asked state lawmakers to support legislation that would exempt casinos from proposition 2 1/2 – A law that caps property tax increases at 2.5 percent and creates a tax ceiling that prevents cities from taxing more than 2.5 percent of their property value. Sarno says Springfield is about to hit that ceiling and is unable to tax new economic growth because of it.
"I'm unable to capture any type of new growth, we've lost in the last couple of years probably around $30 million dollars that we're unable to capture, if you continue to go on it moves out in the chart to about $76 million dollars," said Sarno.
Since he's been in office, Mayor Sarno says Springfield has cut its budget 6 years in a row, eliminated hundreds of public worker jobs and withstood tornadoes and severe snow storms. The city is strapped for cash and Sarno believes casinos could be their best bet to raise new revenue.
Senator Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham), one of the sponsors of the legislation, says if a casino were taxed at a regular commercial property tax rate, Springfield could raise up to $20 million dollars in new revenue.
"I'm fairly confident that it was never the intent of the Legislature to require cities and towns to walk away effectively from tens of millions of dollars in property tax revenues because of the operation of proposition 2 ½,"said Candaras.
But Citizens for Limited Taxation, the anti-tax group that brought prop 2 ½ about 30 years ago, testified against the bill. They argue if Springfield gets an exception, it opens the door to other cities and towns to tax beyond the limit.
"If you're going to make one exception to 2 ½ and Springfield, if they get that exception, other communities are going to come in and have a pet project of their own, in Springfield's case it's casinos, it could be anything," said Chip Faulkner, the assistant director at Citizens for Limited Taxation.
After the hearing, Mayor Sarno had private meetings with legislative leaders including House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer.