Does Your Town Support Local Business?

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Letter to the Editor logoIt is tax classification season again — that time of year when the select boards of the towns the Chamber serves (Westborough, Northborough, Southborough, Shrewsbury and Grafton) set the residential and commercial tax rates for the year.

Historically, the select boards of our towns have voted to maintain a single tax rate and our communities have thrived with a solid base of businesses, jobs, resources, and tax revenues. But there are towns that seriously consider the issue of a split tax rate and that decision would be divisive to small business.

As the voice for local business, the Corridor 9/495 Regional Chamber of Commerce strongly advocates for the continuation of a single tax rate to the town leaders for the following reasons: (1) A single tax rate promotes a business friendly climate for new business growth, job creation and existing business expansion. (2) A split tax rate would put our towns in the minority of Massachusetts municipalities and place our region at an economic disadvantage.  Of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, 69% of all towns in the Commonwealth maintain a single tax rate. (3) A split tax rate is a significant sign to new and existing businesses that a city or town is not “business-friendly”. It is often one of the first, if not the first, question that new businesses ask when looking to locate in a particular location. (4) Business uses minimal town services/resources (public schools, recreation etc.)  (5) Single tax rate helps to keep Corridor 9/495 region competitive by retaining existing businesses and enables our towns to sustain its fiscal well-being. (6) Approximately 80% of U.S. businesses are considered “small” businesses. The Corridor 9/495 Regional Chamber of Commerce has 500 businesses and 95% of our members are small businesses with 10 employees or less. If there were any decision to move toward a split tax rate, it would paint a very different picture of local officials trying to support small businesses in their towns. A split tax rate would result in higher property expenses that would be passed onto the tenants (small businesses) either directly or by higher asking rents.  Because of triple-net leasing, tenants of commercial spaces not only pay their rent and utilities, but also the maintenance of the space, the insurance, and property taxes. (7) Now is not the time to shift any tax burden to our local businesses. Many experts are predicting that in the next year the economy will be in a recession. We are fortunate to have a diverse economy in our region with many different sectors, we are not reliant on just one, however, we are not immune to a coming recession if we do not strategize correctly. If predictions are correct, the combination of high commercial taxes, work shortages, supply chain issues and a recession could be devastating to our business owners here in our region. (8) The businesses of our communities are the backbone of the town’s local economy and often intricately involved in the community with financial and volunteer support. A vast number of companies contribute greatly with scholarships for students, grants to our local schools, donations to the food pantries, and sponsors of athletic and community events.  Yet, if business is struggling to exist, they can’t afford to give generously; and, if they are out of business, or have moved out of town, they will not be here to give anything at all.

Karen Chapman

President & CEO
Corridor 9/495 Regional Chamber of Commerce

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