Commission Recommends City Not Use Casino Money For Tax Relief

A key piece of the mitigation plan for Encore casino payments to Everett has been Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s desire to provide tax relief to property owners in the city, but the Blue Ribbon Task Force appointed by the mayor suggested that should be the policy for casino monies.

In the past two fiscal years, Mayor DeMaria has championed and advocated for the approval of Encore payments to reduce property taxes. The Council has approved that both times, but the Blue Ribbon Commission looking at school finances logged a side recommendation about casino monies.

“Going forward, casino revenues should be dedicated to on-going critical needs of the City in its provision of operational and capital services,” read the report. “Casino revenue should not be needed further to reduce property owners’ tax bills.”

The report pointed out that $12.5 million in casino payment had already been used to hit the “bottom line” and to reduce property taxes.

However, the Commission felt that Everett’s tax bills were not high enough in comparison to other communities to warrant such spending to reduce them even further.

It related that between 2015 and 2019 overall residential value increased by 57 percent and business value increased by 76 percent, yet bills were kept low by policies like the owner-occupant tax break and the commercial tax shift.

“In a comparison of the average single-family tax bills of 22 municipalities in Greater Boston, Everett’s average single-family tax bill of $3,339 was the second lowest,” read the report.

• Fund the Pension System With Casino Money

A second, non-school recommendation from the Commission was about the City’s unfunded pension liability. While the City has a plan to have the system fully funded by 2030, the Commission suggested that casino revenues be used to get that problem fixed sooner.

As of Jan. 1, 2018, the City’s funded pension liability was 60.3 percent, with a plan of having it fully funded by 2030.

Unfunded pension liabilities deal with having enough money to pay the retirement system in full at any given time. The matter wasn’t a priority for cities and towns until the early 2000s when the Legislature required municipalities to come up with a plan to fill the funding gap.

The Commission suggested that casino money fill it quicker than 2030.

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