Why Holyoke should vote down the 2 1/2 Override

There's a Better Way For Holyoke


Please vote NO on Question 1 on Nov. 5th


FAQ page MENU of Questions


These are the questions being asked and that need to be addressed and understood by the Holyoke residential and business taxpayer

  1. When is the Debt Exclusion Tax Override going to be voted on?

  2. Why doesn’t the Debt Exclusion list exactly how much it will cost the taxpayers?

  3. Why doesn’t the Debt Exclusion state how long the tax will be applied to our taxes?

  4. I hear that supporters of the ballot question are calling the tax increase “temporary”. How long is it projected that the increase will be in effect for?

  5. What happens if the 2 New Schools project comes in over budget, does the city have the right to add the extra right onto my tax bill? By voting yes, am I writing a blank check?

  6. Is it true that if the Tax Override is approved, Holyoke will have the Highest Commercial & Industrial Tax Rate in Massachusetts?

  7. How much will the Residential Tax Rates go up if the Tax Override is adopted? What does it also mean for people on low or fixed incomes?

  8. I hear that the Holyoke Mall has called the tax override a “Hardship” and they will be forced to pay over $600,000 per year more in taxes if this tax override goes through, is that true?

  9. Is it really true that Holyoke’s Tax Burden increased more in the last 20 years than it did in the first 150 years?

  10. Are there alternatives to the Build 2 new schools proposal?

  11. Why is the city selling Lynch School when it needs a new Middle School?

  12. Does the city really need to build 2 Massive Taj Mahal style schools in order for our children to learn? How do other kids in the city manage in simple buildings?

  13. Does the city have other debt and can the city really afford to spend $132 million on this project?

  14. If this is adopted, is there an impact on other city departments?

  15. Under the Tax Increase Proposal, the 2 New School Project is only eligible for 57% not 80% state assistance for this project – why so low?

  16. If the Holyoke School Department is in receivership, why isn’t the state paying for the 2 new schools or at least making sure we get our 80% like other districts?

  17. I am a renter, do these tax increases impact me?

  18. I just voted a 1.5% tax increase on the CPA, why do they want another 7%?

Answers:



  1. When is the Debt Exclusion Tax Override going to be voted on?

    There will be a binding Debt Exclusion Tax Override on the Holyoke Ballot on November 5, 2019. It will be on the same ballot as the vote for City Council and School Committee.
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  2. Why doesn’t the Debt Exclusion list exactly how much it will cost the taxpayers?

    Under the type of tax override chosen by the Supporters of the question they are not required to tell the voters how much the total amount of the tax increase will be. The City Council has not yet bonded for the project so the final numbers are not yet known. Supporters of the question say it will be $132 million but they could change that amount to a higher amount without the need for further approval of the voters.
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  3. Why doesn’t the Debt Exclusion state how long the tax will be applied to our taxes?

    The supporters of the ballot question chose not to state the number of years in the ballot question itself. There is no guarantee to voters of how long the tax increase will be.
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  4. I hear that supporters of the ballot question are calling the tax increase “temporary”. How long is it projected that the increase will be in effect for?

    This is true. To make it sound better, supporters including the school department in their own literature have referred to the tax increase as “temporary.” In public statements, supporters have stated that they envision the “temporary” tax increase to be approximately 30 years! Yes they claim that 30 years is temporary since technically 30 years is not forever.
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  5. What happens if the 2 New Schools project comes in over budget, does the city have the right to add the extra right onto my tax bill? By voting yes, am I writing a blank check?

    Yes, they do. The City Council will not be voting on the amount of the bond until after the public vote on the debt exclusion tax override. If a debt exclusion tax override is adopted, it is a blank check authorization of any amount that the supporters want. If they set the bond amount for a higher amount then even the enormous $132 million dollar sum they are projecting now, the voters will have no authority to stop them as long as the monies are used for this project.

    Opponents are also very concerned about the amount coming in over budget because it is very common for projects of the nature proposed for coming in over budget. They literally could set the amount of the bond to whatever they want which by any definition is a “blank check.” A Blank Check you will have to pay!
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  6. Is it true that if the Tax Override is approved, Holyoke will have the Highest Commercial & Industrial Tax Rate in Massachusetts?

    Yes. Holyoke currently has the 3rd Highest Commercial & Industrial Tax Rates in Massachusetts. If the Tax Increase is adopted, Holyoke’s Commercial & Industrial Tax Rates will increase by at least $2.72 per $1,000 of value to $42.59. By far the highest in Massachusetts. This will be a crushing blow to the future economic development our city desperately needs, as well as, send a harsh message to our current businesses that they are not welcome in Holyoke.
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  7. How much will the Residential Tax Rates go up if the Tax Override is adopted? What does it also mean for people on low or fixed incomes?

    The 7% Tax Increase on Residents will mean at least a $1.27 per $1,000 of value Residential Tax Increase! The new rates will be a whopping $20.56 per $1,000 of value. This will place Holyoke in the Top 5% of all Residential Rates in Massachusetts.

    It will have a devastating impact on low and fixed income people. The new higher tax burdens will make Holyoke among the very worst tax bill burdens paid as a percentage of our residents’ income in the state. This means that Holyoke residents will be paying much more of their income in real dollars to property tax than nearly every other resident of the state. How is it progressive to take $250-300 or more per year from people who are already struggling on tight fixed incomes? This ill-conceived proposal hurts seniors and working families who can least afford it.

    In addition to the 7% increase in this tax increase, Holyoke Taxes were increased appx 5% in 2019 due to rising property values and are projected for another 5% increase in 2020. A Whopping 17% increase in 2 years! How can Holyoke voters be expected to pay these type of increases as one of the poorest cities in Massachusetts? These tax increases are cruel and go too far.

    Also do not be fooled, unlike the 1.5% CPA Tax Increase, there will be no exemptions for seniors or people with homes under $100,000. Everyone will be forced to pay!

    We need to work together as a community to provide the best education for our children that WE CAN AFFORD! We must Keep Holyoke Affordable for All!
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  8. I hear that the Holyoke Mall has called the tax override a “Hardship” and they will be forced to pay over $600,000 per year more in taxes if this tax override goes through, is that true?

    Yes it is. Bill Rogalski who is General Manager of Holyoke Mall, has expressed concern about Holyoke Mall having to pay such a large increase on top of the $8 plus million dollars they already pay along with their payment to the CPA.
    Holyoke Mall is Holyoke’s largest taxpayer and accounts for nearly 15% of the total tax levy of the city.
    If Holyoke Mall is harmed it could have disastrous consequences on all other taxpayers in the city who may be left to pay a portion of their share. We already know the difficult financial challenges being faced by malls throughout the country.
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  9. Is it really true that Holyoke’s Tax Burden increased more in the last 20 years than it did in the first 150 years?

    Sadly, that is true. From 1850, when Holyoke became a town, to 1999 Holyoke’s Tax Levy went from $0 to $28 Million. By 2019, it has raised all the way to $54 Million – almost as much as the 1st 150 years of city history. It is projected to grow 5% more by 2020. In addition, there is now a new $500,000 CPA Tax. Now Tax Increase Supporters want another 7% on top of all of that!

    Don’t believe Tax Increase Supporters when they say Holyokers are not already paying their fair share. They have already doubled your taxes - when is enough? Vote No and tell them enough is enough!
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  10. Are there alternatives to the Build 2 new schools proposal?

    Yes, there are numerous alternatives to the Proposal to Build 2 new schools. All of which are more reasonable and more affordable. Some of the more the frequently discussed options:

    The First Option is to renovate our existing schools.

    In recent years the city made an extensive renovation to Holyoke High School for approximately $20 million dollars! The project was an enormous success and made Holyoke High ready for success for another 55 years.

    Lynch SchoolAnniversary Field1952 Construction
    Lynch School was home to tens of thousands of Holyoke children since 1952. It is a gem of a middle school and yet the supporters of this careless proposal want to sell it for only $250,000, demolish it and spend an extra $70 million of your money. They think money grows on trees. If Holyoke reclaimed Lynch and put $20 million into renovating it then it could serve Holyoke children for another 50 years! It also would preserve an important part of our city’s history for future generations. Lynch also has beautiful Anniversary field for the children. The Churchill proposal comes with no such fields for the children.

    Don’t be fooled by false claims that Peck, Lynch or Lawrence cannot be renovated. If Holyoke High can be renovated for $20 million each, these smaller schools can be as well. As a further example, look at the tremendous renovation project of the Holyoke Community Charter School. The spent $20 million to purchase and renovate the old Mammoth Mart next to McDonald’s on Northampton Street. Their school is simple and nice and serves the needs of their children. They did not need a Taj Mahal type school to teach. Today their school serves 700 students. Far more than the 550 students the 2 new schools are proposed to hold and at 25% of the cost.

    Children do not need Taj Mahal style schools in order to learn. Look at the children in Holyoke who are attending very simple but effective schools at Blessed Sacrament, Mater Dolorosa, First Lutheran, and the Holyoke Community Charter School. Each of these schools are clean and humble but the children in them are succeeding! The 2 Proposed Taj Mahal Buildings only help enrich the out of town consultants and contractors who get paid more to waste your money. They will not be paying.

    The Second Option is to build 1 new school. That proposal would have save $55 million if the Middle Schools were combined into 1 new building of 1,100 students instead of 2 Smaller ones of 550 students as proposed. Many communities have done just that with tremendous savings. That is an option that should also be explored further.

    The Third Option is to build 1 new school and renovate 1 school. This would also generate massive savings.

    The Fourth Option is to ensure the City of Holyoke receives 80% state reimbursement from the MSBA. Not the paltry 57% in the debt exclusion tax override proposal.

    This option should be combined with any of the other options selected. Even if the supporters of the ballot question were right about building 2 new schools, everyone should agree that voters be wise to still oppose the question because the city cannot possibly afford to give up 23% state funding or $60 million with interest over 30 years. Holyoke is one of the poorest communities in the state. While everyone supports making improvements to the schools, we also should recognize we have many other improvements the city needs to make with the $60 million that supporters of this question are asking to give up. If this question goes through then that is $60 million we will never get back. It is lost forever.

    The Fifth Option is for the city to fund a portion of the costs of the proposal with existing tax dollars from other bonds that the city will be paying off and not asking the voters to pay the entire costs through the debt exclusion tax override that is being voted on. This would help keep the tax increase to the minimum required. Unfortunately, there was no attempt by the supporters of this question to control costs or the tax burden on voters.

    There are also additional Options the city could afford but have not been explored because the School Receiver and his small group of advisers only pushed the most expensive option from the start just assuming that they could convince the voters to give them the money. They are hoping it works. But voters are smarter than they think.

    If this foolish and costly proposal is defeated, more of the community will be able to get involved and be heard and have a say on the next proposal. Then that proposal can be advanced to the State with strong advocacy for full state reimbursement at 80%. Holyoke needs the state to step up and do what is right for our community!

    Just remember – there is a better way!
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  11. Why is the city selling Lynch School when it needs a new Middle School?

    Lynch SchoolAnniversary Field1952 Construction
    Great Question. In 2008, the Holyoke School Committee voted to end Holyoke’s use of the Middle School Model and decided it was best to use a K-8 Model. At the same time, they also voted to close Lynch School cited there was no longer a need for Lynch Middle School. Clearly, a need now exists making this school an ideal option for preservation. A citizens group has also been working to save Lynch, please see their website for more information at PreserveLynchSchool.com. Like them, we feel it is a travesty for the city to sell Lynch for a mere $250,000 while at the same time asking for a new Middle school that will cost nearly $70 million. That is very wasteful.
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  12. Does the city really need to build 2 Massive Taj Mahal style schools in order for our children to learn? How do other kids in the city manage in simple buildings?

    No we do not. Children do not need a Taj Mahal style school in order to learn. Look at the children in Holyoke who are attending very simple but effective schools at Blessed Sacrament, Mater Dolorosa, First Lutheran, and the Holyoke Community Charter School. Each of these schools are clean and humble but the children in them are succeeding! The 2 Proposed Taj Mahal Buildings only help enrich the consultants and contractors who get paid more to waste your money on buildings that do little to improve the actual education of our children.

    Politicians and Receivers appear to like to just spend other peoples’ money and look like they are doing something to improve the education system in the city. Sadly, their wasteful decisions are taking away precious resources from where they should be spent and that is in the classrooms, after school programs and homes of our students. The tens of millions wasted on Taj Mahal style buildings take directly away from our children’s real needs.
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  13. Does the city have other debt and can the city really afford to spend $132 million on this project?

    Holyoke is mired in debt. The city share of the proposed debt exclusion tax override will DOUBLE the total indebtedness of the city to a level the city will not likely be able to recover. The city will not have the liquidity to fund any of the other important priorities it needs to provide a good quality of life for its residents or to meet its other outstanding unfunded liabilities.

    In addition to all of its current debt, the City of Holyoke also has $28 million in approved but not yet bonded debt.

    The City of Holyoke has the following additional debts still pending:
    • $60 million in unfunded outstanding pension liability.
    • $300 million in unfunded employee health insurance liability
    • $20 million in legally required Combined Sewer Overflow Abatement required by EPA
    • Tens of Millions in deferred maintenance to city roads, streets, parks, equipment, buildings, public lands and structures
    • Unknown Tens of Millions in future capital needs for next 30 years that will have little to no money available to support it if this ballot question were to be adopted.
    A vote in favor of spending all of our money on this debt exclusion tax override means a vote against the many other important future needs of our city. There is only so much and we need to be good stewards to make sure our city employees are treated fairly and our city’s many needs are meet! The proposal to spend so lavishly on these 2 Taj Mahal schools will not work and is unfair to meeting all of our city’s needs!
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  14. If this is adopted, is there an impact on other city departments?

    Yes, there certainly will be.

    As the cost of the debt payments skyrocket, the impact to business and residential taxpayers will also skyrocket. If any of these bills go unpaid or businesses go out of business than the city will actually take in less tax revenue than estimated leaving city departments woefully underfunded. Vital services such as Police, Fire, DPW or Teachers could be underfunded.

    Debt exclusions of the nature proposed are required by law to be paid first. If there is any shortfall, the city departments will receive a lower budget. Current city workers, besides the taxpayers themselves, stand to suffer more than anyone if this proposal goes through. They have already been asked to do more with less, this proposal goes too far.

    City employees also deserve the right to receive their pensions and health insurance benefits. Adding massive costs for these 2 Taj Mahal schools will mean there will not be the future dollars to fund their pensions and future health benefit unfunded liabilities as we should. Holyoke will be breaking its promise to cover these costs unless we are going to ask the voters for round after round of more taxes. How is that going to work?
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  15. Under the Tax Increase Proposal, the 2 New School Project is only eligible for 57% not 80% state assistance for this project – why so low?

    Due to not meeting the MSBA budget guidelines, the tax supporters’ proposal realizes only approximately 57% state reimbursement. Their Proposal spends far in excess on a per square foot basis than the MSBA allows. The $63 Million proposed for the New Lawrence School will cost $475/square foot or 43% more than the $330 per square foot allowed by the state. The New Peck is slated to cost $531/square foot or 60% more than the state allows. The MSBA also does not reimburse for the demolition and land acquisition costs being proposed in the expensive project. The MSBA does not fully fund a Taj Mahal.

    Additionally, the very respected School of Planning and Management Magazine (2015) stated that the National Average for renovating a Middle School should be $243 per square foot. The proposal being pushed by the supporters of this project is appx DOUBLE this amount.

    It is inconceivable why the supporters of this bad deal are so willing to throw away 23% of our state aid especially when the city is so financially cash strapped. Who would do that? Holyoke voters need to put a stop to it and insist on a proposal that maintains our 80% state aid.
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  16. If the Holyoke School Department is in receivership, why isn’t the state paying for the 2 new schools or at least making sure we get our 80% like other districts?

    Many voters have been asking this question. It is very sobering that the school receiver is advocating to take the last dollar from the residents and businesses of one of the very poorest communities in Massachusetts. The State is grossly underfunding our schools and state aid already and now they want to saddle the city with a level of indebtedness it will likely never escape. It only shows once again that Holyoke needs to not let Boston neglect us again. We need to vote this foolish proposal down and stand up for ourselves as a community. The State wanted to run our schools and made numerous claims of how they could turn them around. Receivership is clearly not working because the State is not prepared to make the investments it has been lacking for years. Now the State wants poor Holyoke to pay the State’s share and is coming up with “pie in the sky” proposals it knows Holyokers cannot afford because they are too cheap to pay their fair share. It is a Real Travesty and Holyoke voters on November 5 should not let the State get away with this farce any longer.
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  17. I am a renter, do these tax increases impact me?

    Yes, likely they will. If a renter rents an apartment from a landlord whose property taxes go up if this ballot question passes, then the landlord may need to pass the higher costs along to their tenants in the form of increased rent. No one will be immune from these very large tax increases.
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  18. I just voted a 1.5% tax increase on the CPA, why do they want another 7%?

    Because for some in our community feel the taxes are too low for all of the spending they would like to do. No matter how many tax increases we have, it is simply never enough. They want more and more. They really enjoy spending other peoples’ money. In recent years, property taxes in Holyoke have doubled. Voters are really hurting because wages and Social Security have not kept pace to these large tax increases. If this question is adopted, Holyoke will have among the highest residential tax burdens in Massachusetts! The good news is you have the power to stop it!
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