Editorial: Simple math

Seems like simple math: Give a developer a property tax incentive worth $2.5 million so that he will build a $90 million project on Munroe Street that will generate $5 million in taxes over a seven-year period even with the tax break.

Put another way, in order to attract a major project to Lynn, the city is providing a tax incentive and still expecting to receive at least two-thirds of the revenue it would receive if the incentive was not negotiated.

Sixty-six percent of something versus 100 percent of nothing.

Disturbing but still simple math; yet four City Councilors who voted against a Tax Increment Exemption Agreement for Procopio Enterprises, Inc.’s project didn’t see it that way. Peter Capano, Brian LaPierre, Hong Net, and Jay Walsh voted against providing the incentive to Procopio for its proposed 10-story project.

Capano and Walsh were quoted as describing the Procopio project as rushed. LaPierre didn’t think it makes sense to ” … offer an incentive of that magnitude in the city’s difficult financial times.”

More about LaPierre’s comment later but, first, city residents owe a collective thanks to Councilors Buzzy Barton, Dianna Chakoutis, Richard Colucci, Darren Cyr, Brian Field,

Rick Starbard, and Wayne Lozzi for exhibiting the good sense to vote for the incentive. Chakoutis summed up the unassailable logic of a “yes” vote for the incentive by noting that the $5 million in taxes the Procopio project is forecast to generate during the incentive period will pay for teachers, public safety, and street repairs.

How did that simple logic get lost on ward councilors Capano and Walsh and two experienced councilors at large? Again, to restate the obvious: Giving Procopio a tax incentive is what Economic Development & Industrial Corporation (EDIC/Lynn) Executive Director James M. Cowdell called an “historic” step forward in bringing a major developer to Lynn. Even with the break — which was negotiated by Mayor Thomas M. McGee — the project will generate an estimated $5 million in taxes from fiscal year 2020 to 2027 when the incentive ends.

Back to LaPierre. If the city is facing difficult financial times, doesn’t it only make sense to bring in new development to generate new taxes to expand the city’s tax base? The economic benefit analysis for the Munroe Street project doesn’t even count the disposable incomes of new city residents who will spend some of the money they earn in Lynn.

In addition to serving their constituents as councilors, Capano, LaPierre, Net, and Walsh also share strong organized labor backgrounds. Implicit in that affiliation is the notion that they are ready and willing to serve Lynn workers and their families. What better way to serve local workers and all Lynn residents than to bring development to the city and grow its tax base?

Too often it seems that Lynn stands on the threshold of opportunity and prosperity only to have local elected officials get in their own way and ruin a promising opportunity. Thankfully, a majority of the council prevented the Procopio project from meeting that fate, but it would be interesting for the councilors who opposed the Munroe Street tax break to explain if they have the interests of all Lynn residents at heart, or only the interests of the vocal minority who oppose the tax incentive.

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