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Home Rule Petition to Create Special Fund for Business, Growth

January 5, 2010 –  After City Councilors unanimously elected At-Large Councilor Arthur G. Vigeant president and At-Large Councilor Patricia Pope vice president for 2011 in its annual reorganization meeting, the council voted to proceed with a home rule petition to the Massachusetts General Court that would establish a Business and Economic Development Special Revenue Fund.
Money collected from the increase in the hotel rooms tax, from 4 percent to 6 percent, will solely comprise the fund. Interest accrued would be deposited in the city’s general fund. The city council voted in November for the new tax.

About $400,000 to $500,000 per year would be raised by the 2 percent increase. The city now collects close to $1 million in hotel room taxes per year.

One of the main reasons for the tax increase is to create a new master plan for future economic growth. The Marlborough Economic Development Corporation will assist the city and hire a firm that has created master plans in the past. Both the city council and the MEDC would oversee the process but the council will have fiscal management of the funds.

Before the vote was taken to approve, Ward 2 Councilor Paul Ferro proposed to amend the language in the petition. Instead of requiring a two-thirds vote of the city council to repeal the Business and Economic Development Special Revenue Fund, Ferro said that should only require a majority vote of the council.

“I just want to be consistent,” he said. “It takes a majority vote to raise taxes, then it should be a majority vote to repeal taxes.”

Section 6 of the petition states: “If the city of Marlborough revokes, by a majority vote of the city council of the city … its acceptance of the room occupancy excise tax in excess of 4% … then the city of Marlborough shall thereupon decide, by a twothirds vote of the city council, the separate question whether the Business and Economic Development Special Revenue Fund shall cease to have effect in the city.”

Ferro said that in every other budgetary situation, it takes a simple majority of the city council to spend or allocate money from one line item to another.

Council President Vigeant said he would not support Ferro’s amendment because the council had already discussed the merits and language in establishing the special fund from the increased hotel room tax. “I ask the council to support the city solicitor’s language as written.”

Ferro also said the term “economic development” is too vague, adding “there is nothing here that says we must spend money on a certain item. Economic development could be anything. If you wanted to, the city could use it for snow removal.”

But Ward 1 Councilor Joseph F. Delano Jr. said, “If we’re going to misuse the funds, then let’s do it in the light of day, where we would be held accountable, and rightly so.”

Ferro’s amendment failed. Voting in favor of the amendment: Councilor At-Large Patricia Pope, Councilor At-Large Michael Ossing, Ward 3 Councilor Matt Elder and Ferro. Voting against the amendment: Ward 7 Councilor Donald R. Landers, Ward 6 Councilor Edward Clancy, Ward 5 Councilor Robert M. Seymour, Ward 4 Councilor Robert J. Tunnera, Ward 1 Councilor Delano, At-Large Councilor Steven Levy and Council President Vigeant.

This story originally appeared here