November 30, 2016

Randell: Cutting to the chase with Petty’s tax panel recommendations

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Amongst the Mayor’s Tax Policy Committee recommendations was one creating a vehicle rental fee “to support the DCU Center.”

Bill Randell

Bill Randell

The key word here is “support,” which maybe — finally! — will help me convince people that the DCU Center does not return any money to the city of Worcester’s bottom line and must in fact be propped up by the taxpayers.

Of course, that “support” has already been substantial; some $2,000,000 has been spent or will be from the General Fund to subsidize the center between fiscal 2015-2017:

  • 2015 actual subsidy from the General Fund = $904,188
  • 2016 estimated subsidy from the General Fund = $490,164
  • 2017 estimated subsidy from the General Fund = $470,494

According to page 15 of the report submitted last week at City Council, it looks like the actual subsidy may have come in a little higher in FY16 ($508,080).

My question is, rather than add a tax on Worcester-based car rental agencies, putting them at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding towns, why not cut wasteful spending? Stop the DCU Center subsidy. Why make the same mistake of creating a variable rate with car rentals as we did when we created a dual property tax rate in Worcester?

More Randell: On Austin Street, a poor example of leadership and citizenship

Every time I write this recommendation, someone inevitably tells me how much the DCU contributes to the downtown area. I could not agree more, in principle, but we would still have a convention center if we sold it. Just like we still have an airport after selling it to Massport and Springfield still has its arena that it sold to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority — only without the subsidy affecting city taxpayers.

I’d hate to see how big this added car rental fee will need to be to fund the Skybridge that will someday connect the DCU Center to the adjacent parking garage and hotel. It’s not like we can really afford to invest at least $12 million into a skybridge, anyway, just like we never would have been able to invest $30-plus million into a high-tech Category III instrument landing system like Massport did at Worcester Regional Airport.

Now’s the time to look for a buyer with deeper pockets who can make these kinds of investments.

From the Nov. 27-Dec. 3 Worcester Sun:

Overall I find it somewhat disappointing that this committee seemed to only look at increasing revenue by adding various fees and taxes. Cutting spending by $1,000,000 would have the same effect on property taxes as raising $1,000,000 in additional taxes/fees — except that it’s even better since it keeps Worcester from being at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding towns that don’t pile these expenses on taxpayers.

For the 100th time, we should move to sell the DCU Center, among other cost-cutting maneuvers. Stop the annual subsidies and return local taxes, like those from the District Improvement Financing account back to the General Fund.

We shouldn’t be looking for additional fees to “support” the DCU Center.

[Editor’s note: The committee’s report recommended the rental fee not only support the DCU Center but also the “public parking program.”]

Bill Randell started and operates the local news website Worcester Herald, and is the owner and author of FlyORH, a website dedicated to Worcester Airport. He is also president and founder of Worcester-based businesses Advantage Benefits and ABG Real Estate.

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