The Worcester City Council approved 4-percent increases in property taxes for fiscal year 2013 that will mean an average $314 increase in tax bills for owners of commercial and industrial property in the city.
The council's 9-2 vote Tuesday night supported a joint recommendation from the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Shrewsbury Street Neighborhood Association and several other city organizations, to raise rates to $18.58 per $1,000 of property valuation for homeowners and $30.85 for owners of commercial and industrial property.
The median commercial property owner's tax bill for the year, which began July 1, will increase $314, with the average tax bill being $8,084, according to data provided by city officials.
"This is what togetherness and unity look like," chamber President and CEO Richard Kennedy said as he addressed the council with Shrewsbury Street Neighborhood Association President Gary Vecchio.
Vecchio noted that if the lowest residential tax rate were adopted, it would raise taxes for commercial property owners by $900, on average, and if the lowest rate for commercial properties was adopted, taxes would increase by an average of $700 for homeowners.
"Unless we start working together and put the community first, we won't get to where we need to," Vecchio said.
Council members praised the business and neighborhood groups for working to meet an agreement on the tax rates that led to what they said was one of the fastest tax rate hearings the city has had since splitting rates 28 years ago.
"It's amazing what happens when we sit down and talk and find common goals we can all agree on," said Councilor-At-Large Kathleen Toomey.
District 5 Councilor William Eddy said the new tax rates reflect a city that's on the move, while Councilor-At-Large Joseph O'Brien said, "It is a remarkable day in Worcester."
Councilor-At-Large Konstantina Lukes and District 3 Councilor George Russell pushed for rates more in favor of residents. They voted against the approved rates.
The collaboration among the groups is something that Stuart Loosemore, the chamber's director of government affairs and public policy, said he hopes will continue in the future.
"I don't think either of us did it out of necessity," he said of the tax rate agreement. "I think this was done because there's probably more common ground here than we think. I hope this is the start of a more collaborative approach moving forward."
The move further pushes the city toward a single tax rate that many business leaders have championed.
"This was, I think, the more fair and equitable way to do it and it was a significant move toward parity, whether that be a single rate or something closer to a single rate," Loosemore said. "It's a good movement."
Rates for 2012 were $16.98 for residential properties and $29.08 for commercial and industrial properties. The council approved those rates in May in a narrow 6-5 vote, following a citywide property revaluation that increased the assessed values of more than half of the city's commercial and industrial properties' more than 20 percent.
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