At an August meeting of the Clinton Board of Selectman (BOS), the BOS discussed using temporary tax abatements on incremental taxes on added commercial capital investments to foster growing Clinton’s commercial tax base. Participants included the current and former tax collectors, tax assessor, and Economic Development Commission chair.
Only one selectman, Carol Walter, objected, saying this would open a can of worms. Ironically, she’s the only remaining selectman who served during the Bruce Farmer administration when the BOS unanimously (John Giannotti abstaining) granted Liberty Place Affordable Housing’s excessive tax abatement. That abatement fixes its property tax at $3,500 with annual increases of three percent for 40 years.
In the first year, Clinton sacrificed $51,547 in current-year taxes. With no increase in Clinton taxes, Clinton forgoes $1.9 million over 40 years. Assuming modest (two percent) annual increases, this abatement shortchanges Clinton more than $3 million that other taxpayers will have to make up or that Clinton must trim from education, public safety, and/or infrastructure maintenance budgets.
One of the two beneficiaries of this development was Walter’s current town council Republican running-mate Mark Richards, who purchased 8 Liberty Place with then-selectman John Giannotti in 2012 for $135,000. Five years later, they sold this property to Liberty Place Affordable Housing for $500,000. That’s a $365,000 or 270 percent return on a $135,000 investment in just five years.
Walter also secured her $28,000-a-year (plus benefits) job as Clinton’s Water Pollution Control clerk from fellow Republican Farmer, who is now a Republican candidate for the Police Commission. Because of conflicts with her public-employee role, Walter has had to repeatedly recuse herself from big-ticket BOS decisions relating to sanitation and union contracts.
Blatant and expensive cronyism, a product of major-party monopolization of elective office, will continue unless Clinton voters vote for minor party candidates in November.