Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno was on Beacon Hill Tuesday testifying in favor of a bill in the Massachusetts Senate that would allow municipalities to raise property taxes on future casino developments at a higher rate than currently allowed. The bill would amend language in a state law enacted in 1980 – known as Proposition 2 and a half – which limits the annual amount that municipalities can raise property taxes to 2.5 percent.
Sarno says while he agrees with its principle, he claims the law has limited the amount of new growth tax revenue the city can collect, resulting in $30 million in “lost” revenues over the past three years. He says those unseen dollars, compounded by a series of natural disasters in the city, including the June 2011 tornado, have made for continuous budget strains. Sarno says raising property taxes on a future casino would help offset those losses.
“This would be to capture when the casinos, if we’re lucky enough to get it, so we can capture that new growth which could be anywhere, conservatively just on property taxes, $15 to $20 million. Which means I could continue to do a lot of positive things for the city,” Sarno says.
Springfield is currently negotiating community host agreements with two developers proposing to build a resort casino in the city. Sarno says he is still pushing for the agreements to be ready in time for a city-wide vote by June 25th, the same day of the special election for the open U.S. Senate seat. That means agreements would have to be finalized and approved by the city council by April 25th.