Hadley to vote on 12 items at special Town Meeting Saturday 

  • Hadley Town Hall FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/10/2020 8:46:00 AM

HADLEY — A strategy to keep property taxes from going up for the average taxpayer, a program to assist residents at risk of not being able to meet rent payments and a zoning change to move Hadley toward becoming a green community are on the warrant at a special Town Meeting Saturday.

The 12 articles will be considered starting at 1 p.m. at the public safety complex at 15 East St. Sixty-five seats will be set up inside the Fire Department bays, spaced at least six feet apart, with additional seating outdoors. Deputy Town Administrator David Nixon said the site was chosen to promote safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the warrant is being kept as brief as possible.

With the early paydown of $100,000 in principal on debt and the transfer of $375,000 from the stabilization account, which will be replenished by spending trimmed from the school budget, the Select Board is asking voters to push the tax rate down from $12.78 per $1,000 valuation to $12.15 per $1,000 valuation. This would cause the average tax bill to rise by $52, from the current $4,202.

But the Select Board is also narrowly supporting using an additional $155,000 from the stabilization account to keep property taxes flat. About 1,000 residential taxpayers or so would see a decrease in taxes under this scenario, and about 600 would see an increase, said Assessor Dan Zdonek. 

While the Select Board previously endorsed this plan, at a recent meeting former board member Molly Keegan said she worries that reduced tax bills might cost the town needed revenues. Keegan said there could be one-year euphoria exchanged for anger next year.

Select Board member Christina Stanley said there could be a slippery slope of artificially reducing the tax rate. 

Rental relief program

With the pandemic ongoing, Community Preservation Act money is being sought to create a relief fund, which would have $100,000 available for emergency rental assistance. This program is an idea that comes from the Housing and Economic Development Committee.

Keegan, a member of that committee, said with at least 244 rental units in Hadley, the new fund would help people living paycheck to paycheck who may be unable to meet their rent obligations later this year or throughout 2021.

The rent relief would be for qualified applicants, on a first-come, come first serve basis, who prove hardship as a result of the pandemic. It is similar to a program in Amherst, which in its initial round provided $37,328 for 18 households, and has a second round with $212,671 available.

Another $155,000 in CPA money would go toward gravestone restoration at the North Hadley and Russellville cemeteries and stonewall fixes at the Hockanum Cemetery.

Voters will consider adopting the stretch energy code, mandating various energy-saving building techniques, which is essential toward becoming a green community.  Already, 271 of 351 cities and towns in the state are part of this program. Another bylaw will formalize the establishment of a municipal affordable housing trust fund.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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