Business groups in Worcester are urging their members to attend tonight's City Council meeting and lobby for a fair property tax rate.
The council, in its annual tax classification hearing, is scheduled to approve the rate residents and businesses will pay, just days after city officials released new property valuations that sent values soaring, in some cases by more than double.
On Monday, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce lobbied its members to "Show Up or Pay Up," meaning that if they don't tell councilors about the damage higher taxes can do to their businesses, they will wind up paying more to the city. The group Worcester Citizens for Business sent a similar message via email yesterday, saying "Our business community has been stagnant for many years. We need businesses to come to Worcester, stay, grow and hire. This keeps our residents employed and makes a strong, healthy community."
The chamber is pushing for a tax rate of $28.56 for every $1,000 in property valuation for commercial and industrial properties, which would represent a substantial drop from the current rate of $34.65. Meanwhile, the chamber is advocating a higher rate for homeowners: $17.18, up from the current $16.06. In the recently-completed triennial revaluation, residential assessments fell by an average of 3.8 percent from fiscal 2011. These rates would result in an average tax increase of 2.8 percent for all property owners, the chamber said.
"The statement, 'show up or pay up,' may sound harsh but we are trying to drive home a message," Chamber President Richard B. Kennedy said in a statement. "This ever looming dual tax rate issue has finally reached critical mass and if businesses do not stand up and speak for themselves then they may have to suffer the consequences of a crippling tax bill."
Last year, in a 6-to-5 vote, the council approved a smaller percentage increase in the rate for businesses (3.8 percent) than for residences (6 percent) as a signal that it wanted to narrow the gap between the two rates.
When they met earlier this month, councilors said they were dreading tonight's vote after the changes in property valuations were released. Several raised the possibility of voting a higher residential rate to offset what are sure to be higher commercial and industrial tax bills.