Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz calls for new local revenue sources and tax relief for seniors, veterans



Last modified: Tuesday, January 07, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — Moments after being sworn in to his second full term as mayor Monday night, David J. Narkewicz told the crowd of over 100 people in the Northampton Senior Center that he hopes to find new sources of local revenue and proposed a measure that would allow seniors and veterans to reduce their tax bills.

“I am particularly humbled by the historic significance of being the first city resident elected to serve a four-year term as mayor under our new city charter,” Narkewicz said in his inaugural address, referring to voters approving in 2012 the increase from two years.

Narkewicz and other city officials were sworn in during the inaugural ceremony which was followed by a reception.

Narkewicz identified three issues he hopes to tackle in his first few months of the new term, starting with trying to supplement dwindling state aid.

“If aid to cities and towns continues to lag and there is no political will to revisit outdated state funding formulas, we must seek more local revenue authority from state government to let us control our own fiscal destiny,” he said in his speech.

Narkewicz said he wants to change the tax structure and other “local revenue tools” to raise more money for schools, public safety, and infrastructure.

He also promised that within a few months, he will ask the City Council to approve a measure that would allow income-eligible seniors and veterans to volunteer for the city in exchange for reducing their tax bills by up to $1,000.

“Many other Massachusetts communities have created these tax work-off programs to the benefit of residents and municipal governments alike. The time has come for Northampton to join them,” Narkewicz said.

His third short-term goal is to finance the necessary improvements to the city’s stormwater infrastructure. Narkewicz said plans for how to raise the money have been reviewed long enough.

“I call upon the City Council to send the pending stormwater legislation to my desk early in 2014 so I can sign it and my administration can begin implementing it,” he said.

Narkewicz also said that in his first term, his administration has reorganized and made more efficient some departments and tightened internal controls of departmental spending, cell phone allowances and other city resources.

He said that moves such as revising zoning on King Street and taking advice from local business owners on the Economic Development Advisory Committee has led to an “unprecedented level of economic activity” in the last two years.

“All told we’ve seen 13 new projects in various stages of permitting and construction valued at almost $90 million,” he said. “When completed, these projects will have expanded our tax base by 3 percent, generating $1.26 million in additional property tax revenues needed to fund our city and schools.”

He pointed to the city’s new website and use of Twitter, Facebook, and Google Apps for Government as ways he has used technology to improve efficiency and communication. In its first two weeks, he said, the new website had 45,000 page views and “virtual visits from people in every state in America, save North Dakota and Wyoming.”

Also taking the oath at the inauguration was City Clerk Wendy Mazza, sworn in by master of ceremonies and Northampton District Court Judge W. Michael Goggins. Mazza admininstered the oath of office to Narkewicz and then collectively to the members of four elected boards.

New city councilors sworn in were Ryan R. O’Donnell of Ward 3, Gina-Louise Sciarra of Ward 4, and Alisa F. Klein of Ward 7. Also sworn in were at-large councilors Jesse M. Adams and William H. Dwight, Maureen T. Carney of Ward 1, Paul D. Spector of Ward 2, David A. Murphy of Ward 5, and Marianne L. LaBarge of Ward 6. Murphy was also sworn in as the elector under the Oliver Smith will.

“I think it’s a chance for a new council to go in a new direction,” O’Donnell said. “I think we’re going to be a council that’s thoughtful and I want us to be good legislators, to get into the details of the issues we’re dealing with.”

Sciarra, who was unopposed in her campaign for the Ward 4 seat, said she was excited about the council’s first meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday. “I’m just really looking forward to serving,” she said.

Klein, who defeated incumbent Eugene A. Tacy to win the Ward 7 seat, said she is also ready to get started. “I feel like there’s a lot to do — a lot for us to sink our teeth into,” she said.

School Committee members who were sworn in Monday were newcomers Pamela Hannah of Ward 1 and Ann M. Hennessey of Ward 5, as well as incumbents R. Downey Meyer of Ward 7 and at-large member Blue M. Duval. Two others elected, incumbent Howard T. Moore of Ward 3 and new at-large member Kari M. Nykorchuk, were absent. Mazza said she will administer the oath to them in her office as soon as possible.

Michael T. Cahillane, John E. Cotton and Thomas M. FitzGerald, all incumbents, were sworn in as Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School trustees. Russell W. Carrier and Marjorie R. Hess were sworn in as Forbes Library trustees.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.


 


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