Disagreement over level of tax relief, as Springfield City Council begins final budget review
The Springfield City Council on Tuesday will begin final deliberations on the budget proposal submitted by Mayor Domenic Sarno.
The $819 million spending plan is up more 8.4% from the 2022 fiscal year, largely due to an increase in state aid for Springfield's schools.
City Council President Jesse Lederman said other increases are straightforward.
"The increases that are included in the budget seem to primarily be driven by standard increases that you would see year-over-year for the cost of goods, labor," Lederman said.
The proposal also calls for $3.5 million in tax breaks, and an expanded discount program for seniors. The eligibility age would decrease from 70 to 65, and the amount of the abatement would double to $1,000.
In his budget message, Sarno also said the city is pursuing home-rule legislation to be approved by the state, which would also offer an additional tax break to homeowners under age 65 meeting certain income criteria. Money to the city under its agreement with the MGM Springfield casino would be used to pay for the program.
"I, along with my award-winning financial team, have developed a new, multi-faceted tax relief plan, providing relief to those in need, with consideration to financial responsibility and sustainability by maximizing all locally sourced revenue available to us," Sarno wrote in his budget message.
That's not enough for City Councilor Tracye Whitfield, who said she's voting against the budget. Whitfield said the $6.5 million given to developers of a downtown housing development this year could have instead provided more tax relief.
"I urge Mayor Sarno to do what’s right for the people of Springfield," Whitfield said in a statement. "Let’s work together to come up with solutions that put our residents first. It’s really beyond time to do so!"
A spokesperson for Sarno did not return a request for comment Friday on Whitfield's comments.