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Ludlow Councilman Questions Mayor's Authority on Budget Matters

Tempers flared at the Ludlow City Council Meeting Thursday night over a tax increase and a perceived lack of checks and balances in the city’s government.

For the fiscal year that started on July 1, the council voted to raise the city’s real estate tax from $346 on a $100,000 home to about $385 on a $100,000 home. The passed rate is an increase of 1.1 cents per $100 home value. (Personal property rate was lowered from 0.764 cents per $100 to 0.749).

To put it in perspective (for you to have a reference point and not the article), with the proposed ordinance to abolish the City Sticker tax ($20 per vehicle), a family living in a $100,000 home with two cars will pay $1 and some change less than last year ($39 property tax increase but saving $40 for two cars and personal property tax saving a small amount).  

“If we increase taxes, we should justify that to the public. What are we really going to get from the increase?,” asked Councilman Tom Amann.

City Administrator Elishia Chamberlain offered several destinations for the revenue, including road repairs, improvements to street lighting, and the purchase of new radios for the Ludlow Police Department.

Amann cited plans to install a digital sign in front of the city building, which will cost around $17,000, as one of the reasons he’s opposed to the increase.

Amann argued that Mayor Ken Wynn’s spending power is too strong, and the monetary threshold at which he is required to gain council approval for spending should be lowered.

City Attorney Jeff Otis responded that Ludlow’s procedure for mayoral spending is in line with state law.

“You want to micromanage. I understand that you don’t like the law. But this mayor has reached out to you over and over again, and has included you in processes that he didn’t have to. I understand you want to be included in more. I think your intentions are good. But what you’re proposing is to usurp the power of the executive authority. We can’t do that,” said Otis.

The tax increase passed with a vote of four-to-two, with Amann and Bill Whiteley dissenting.

Prior to the disagreement over the tax increase, the council reflected on and thanked Police Chief Scott Smith for organizing a seminar last month that was intended to improve community relations and communications between local police and residents of the cities they patrol.

The event, which about 20 local police chiefs and community members attended, featured speakers from the NAACP and FBI in the morning, and hands-on, situational training in the afternoon.

“This was a huge effort. A lot of communities want to be careful delving into this topic,” said Chamberlain. We’re proactively dealing with how to deal with potential situations, not only for the safety of our residents, but also our officers.

Smith said he plans to organize a similar event next year, adding that he thought everyone took away valuable information from the event.

The Ludlow City Council will meet again on October 13 at the Ludlow Municipal Building. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

Written by Alex Valentine, RCN contributor