**A PLANET EXCLUSIVE** PITTSFIELD OFFICIALS FAIL TO FILE PAPERS ON HOTEL/MEALS TAX, COSTING TAXPAYERS PLENTY
BY DAN VALENTI
EXCLUSIVE TO THE PLANET!
AN ERROR IN PAPERWORK BY PITTSFIELD OFFICIALS HAS ROBBED CITY COFFERS OF A SUBSTANTIAL SUM OF MONEY. AT THE SAME TIME, HOMEOWNERS AND BUSINESSES HAVE JUST BEEN HAMMERED WITH YET ANOTHER LARGE TAX HIKE.
* * *
Do you recall earlier this fall, when the city council needed to hurry-hurry-hurry in passing the increase in the restaurant and meals tax. My Right Honorable Good Friends, including His Grace Jonathan Lothrop, argued that time — usually of the essence under the best of circumstances — was in this case of “triple secret super essence.” In other words, “Don’t bother to read the fine print. Trust us.”
That wasn’t J-Lo’s quote, but it gives you the gist: With the uncertainty of state funds, bird plop on the cherry sheets, squid belly futures down in Kuala Lumpur, and other non squiturs, Lothrop, Lee, and the rest of the band Bad Company couldn’t wait to raises taxes on Pittsfield’s hoteliers and restaurateurs. Not only did Pittsfield institutions (Pasquale Arace of the Highland Restaurant and Mark Pappas of The Lantern, for example) NOT receive generous tax breaks of the kind given the carpetbagger investors in downtown Pittsfield , they were being hammered on top of their usual tax beating.
So how much of that extra money that Pittsfield so desperately needed made its way back from the Department of Revenue (DOR) in Boston to Shire City?
Z-e-r-o. Not one red or blue cent.
You wanna know why? Lothrop, Lee, and Mates, in their hurry to pick the pockets of honest businessmen, never filed the necessary papers with DOR. In short, the city lost one full business quarter of business because some city officials don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. We’re not even sure if Lothrop, who once was a voice of the people and who now for some reason seems to have been entirely coopted by Da Boys, could find his heinie with both hands. He sure didn’t trouble himself to see if the paperwork to the sales tax legislation had been correctly filed. The new tax rate will go into effect Jan. 1.
Since downtown business is so great (what, don’t you read the Berkshire Eagle?), how many dollars did city taxpayers lose because of the idiots who didn’t follow procedure? J-Lo, wanna do some research into that in your spare time? Where is Matt Kerwood when we really need him?
This cause was championed by the crack Eagle management staff and it was hurry-hurry-hurry. Get it approved so we can start raking in the dough on October 1.
A city hall source tells THE PLANET that someone in the Allen Street Ayslum forgot to send out the notices to the restaurants so they could adjust their cash registers and prepare to collect the badly needed dough. Can the same city that argued how badly needed was this infusion of cash be so inept that they would piss away that dough for a entire quarter? Did you give it a good shake, J-Lo?
Why do we pick on J-Lo. Because he is a policy wonk, who makes a show about how much he does his research and his homework when working on the city’s business.
What an irony. Interprint can’t follow procedures when they’re doing a project, the school department maintenance crew can’t follow procedure when flushing boilers, and the Allen Street Asylum can’t follow procedures when adding additional taxes. BUT …
… but everyone knows the ins and outs when it comes to stealing more tax dollars from The Little Guy. They know how to put up stop signs where they’re not needed and traffic lights too. They know how to make excuses for the lack of accountability in Pittsfield.
THE PLANET laughs at His Grace Jonathan Lothrop for chiding councilors Mike Ward and John Krol for trying to give business a tiny bit of a break when splitting the tax rate. In his recent newsletter, Ward explained the confusing tax classification hearing as clear as we’ve ever seen it. In June, the city approves a spending plan. In December, it decides who pays for what, that is, how much will homeowners pick up and how much will be put on business owners.
Pittsfield does not have an equal split. Businesses pay much more. The city council approved Mayor Jimmy Ruberto’s spending plan to raise taxes on everyone. Homeowners saw taxes rise from $14.20/thousand to $15.19. Businesses were formerly paying $29.31. They jump to $30.95. Ward and Krol managed to win a slight break on the commercial rate, which demonstrates a deeper understanding of the process than my other Right Honorable Good Friends. We also agree with councilor Joe Nichols, who said at the tax hearing that unless the city begins making significant cuts in the budget, “We’re going to tax people out of their homes and businesses.”
Incidentally, didn’t J-Lo also harangue Nichols when the latter made a reasonable comment regarding the “presentation from John Barrett on his findings as the Department of Public Works Administration consultant” (from the council agenda). Barrett wasn’t there. Nichols pointed that out, but J-Lo lectured Nichols for daring to raise a point of order. Lost in the confusion of the moment, our mental replay has the idiotic reply coming from Lothrop. It sounds like the thing he’s do in his new role as Establishment Waterboy.
Guys like Lee and Lothrop cry that there’s nowhere to cut? Pull-eeze. A few simple suggestions, eminently doable:
* Pension reform. Renegotiate the mountain of benefits that are no longer sustainable.
* Trim the fat in the school departments. Starts with the bloated admin layers.
* Change the taxpayer-funded health insurance for public workers from 85-15 to 60-40.
* Require a 40-hour workweek of public employees who now work 35 to 37 1/2 hours.
These three changes alone would bring the budget below $100 million WITH NO DROP IN SERVICES. It can be done. It simply needs courage, political will, and effectiveness, qualities that don’t come to mind when thinking of the council leadership (Lee and Marchetti) and doorstops like J-Lo.
And what were Sen. Ben Downing, BCC President Paul Raverta, and BMC Chief Eugene Dellea discussing at lunch in the “fancy eatin’ room” at the Red Lion Inn? Our spies report they were there before noon (12/16) and still there well after two p.m. That’s six+ man hours of top talent, over what? The pan seared trout? We can’t say, although we will say that our spies are everywhere, even in the most hallowed of halls and the highest of offices.