By Ted LeBorde
January 5, 2011
WESTFIELD – A plan by the city to assign property values and taxes on tenants at Barnes Municipal Airport has some businesses and plane owners crying foul and threatening to close shop and move elsewhere.
Paul E. Dion described the issue as “outrageous valuations leading to high taxes” referring to Hangar #3 which he purchased the lease rights to last April for $150,000. The city has place a assessed value of $800,000 on the building, a building he says can be built new for around $225,000. The property tax on Dion’s hangar will be about $26,000.
“I know we have to pay taxes,” said Dion. “But if this valuation stands I could go out of business,” he said.
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik said Wednesday “this is a very difficult situation and the city is trying to work with the tenants. But, the law says we should tax them and this should have happened years ago.
Assessor James M. Pettengill said the tax on airport tenants is provided for under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59, Section 2B which covers all for profit businesses including those on exempt land.
The city began researching the airport property tax issue following a 2008 decision of the state’s Appellate Tax Board upholding property taxes on businesses located at Fitchburg’s municipal airport.
Similar property taxes are also assessed to businesses at Northampton and Barnstable airports, according to Pettengill.
Parcels at Barnes are municipally owned and leased to tenants.
Dion rents space in his hangar to small aircraft owners, including Michael L. Foy, who with partners, owns Westfield Flight Academy which could also go out of business or be forced to locate to another airport in the region.
In addition to paying the $150,000 to purchase the lease agreement for the 25-year-old hangar, Dion pays the city $25,000 annually to use the building.
“This is causing an uproar at the airport,” according to Foy, who said the valuation listed for his flight school at $60,800. “This is a small structure of four aluminum walls and some sheetrock built in the corner of the hangar. This type of situation may force some people at Barnes to go out of business or relocate,” he said.
Airport Manager Brian P. Barnes said Tuesday there is an estimated 50 tenants at the airport. The airport receives an estimated $225,000 annually through its leases for hangars, office space and land.
Dion and Foy will ask the City Council Thursday night for assistance in resolving the tax issue. They also plan to attend a Jan. 12 meeting of the Board of Assessors.
Knapik and Pettengill said tenants should file for tax abatements if they feel the valuations are set too high.
Source: THE REPUBLICAN