LtE: Elected Official Bacci Continues to Attack Volunteers

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Dear Editor:

On October 22, I wrote to the Select Board to express my concern about the growing gap between commercial and residential tax bills, an issue that the Select Board could have addressed when they set the FY2024 split tax rate on October 24.

During the discussion, Select Board member Carlo Bacci made a point to call me out by name and criticize my letter. I have included my complete letter below, so readers are welcome to decide for themselves whether I said anything worthy of public ridicule.

In the meantime, I must point out that this continues a pattern where Mr. Bacci uses his platform as an elected official to attack the volunteers who make this town work. In April, after Recreation Committee member Angela Binda reported an open meeting law violation that caused another committee’s votes to be nullified, Mr. Bacci took time during the Select Board meeting to describe Ms. Binda’s actions as a “diatribe” and “uncalled for.” 

In that case, Ms. Binda was in the room, and then-Select-Board-chair Mark Dockser graciously offered her a chance to respond to Mr. Bacci’s remarks. In my case, I was at home putting my son to bed, so I wasn’t able to respond to Mr. Bacci’s unfair statements.

Mr. Bacci has lamented the difficulty of finding volunteers to fill positions on town boards and committees. Setting aside the merits of his arguments, I would greatly have preferred if Mr. Bacci had responded to my email instead of using his position of power to attack my opinion as an informed member of the Finance Committee. Calling out volunteers publicly sends a message that volunteers’ input and contributions are not welcome, which is the opposite of what Reading needs.

Joseph Carnahan
Middlesex Ave

(A copy of my Select Board letter is included below.)

Subject: Curbing the divergence in tax rates

I am writing in regards to the tax classification hearing being held on October 24.

Our chief appraiser has provided a wealth of numbers in the packet for Tuesday’s Select Board meeting, showing how the existing split tax rate would lower commercial taxes while raising residential taxes sharply and how a much larger residential/commercial tax split would be required to equalize tax burdens across different property classes. However, I think a picture is worth a thousand numbers here.

Using data from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s municipal databank, I plotted the size of the CIP (commercial, industrial, and personal property) and residential tax levies in Reading over the last ten years, plus an eleventh year of projections for tax levies in FY2024 depending on different possible tax splits:

As you can see, residential taxes have risen much, much faster than commercial taxes over the last decade, to the point where no plausible split in the next year could make up the difference. (I should add that my choice of ten years was arbitrary: I would expect that residential property values have grown faster than commercial property values for more than just the last ten years.)

However, it is also clear that even a split of 1.2 would merely be enough to preserve the existing gap. If we wish to undo any of the extra tax burden that we have shifted onto residents over the past decade, we would need a higher split of 1.3 or 1.4.

I understand why we intentionally shifted additional tax burden from businesses onto residents during the COVID pandemic, as local businesses include so many retailers and restaurants that were hardest hit by COVID restrictions. However, now that things have long since returned to normal, the fair and sustainable choice is for Reading to adopt a larger split in order to bring the different property classes’ tax rates closer together.

Please let me know if you have any questions about where I got this data or how I extrapolated from the numbers in the packet to estimate the overall tax levies. Thank you for considering this information as you discuss the FY2024 tax rate split on Tuesday.


Joseph Carnahan
Middlesex Ave

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