On Springfield

Tax Relief from Casino?

City Councilor Tim Rooke continues to push a proposal to use some of the money promised the city by MGM to cut local tax bills.

MGM was recently chosen by Mayor Domenic Sarno as the city’s preferred casino developer. In a host-community agreement negotiated with the administration, MGM has promised to make annual payments to the city once (and if) its casino opens. That money—a combination of property taxes, development grants, “community impact payments” and other payments—is “anticipated” to be “in excess of $25 million.”

Rooke would like to see part of that money used to offset property taxes paid by homeowners and businesses. “This is the fairest process overall,” he said. “Give a portion back to the residents and businesses that have stuck it out in Springfield—kind of a way of saying, ‘Thanks for sticking it out in the tough times.’” The move might also help attract new businesses to the city, Rooke said.

And, he added, it would reduce the inevitable squabbling that would come when councilors lobby to allocate the casino money to their pet causes or organizations. “Before you know it, everyone thinks it’s Christmas, and nobody can agree on where the money should go.”

Rooke doesn’t know yet how much of the money he’d like to see applied to tax relief; the City Council, mayor and City Hall finance team would have to hash that out, he said.

Of course, it’s too early for property owners to begin celebrating their lower tax bills. Residents still need to weigh in on the MGM agreement, which they will do in a July 16 special election. And, ultimately, the Mass. Gaming Commission will decide who gets the sole casino license to be granted in Western Mass.: MGM; Hard Rock, which has a proposal in West Springfield; or Mohegan Sun, which wants to build a casino in Palmer.

© 2014 The Valley Advocate