Springfield Assessors Office target of taxpayer lawsuit

Lawsuit alleges properties hosting cell phone towers and billboards are undervalued

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) –  A group of Springfield taxpayers have brought a lawsuit against the city to take a closer look at the taxes paid for billboards and cell towers. The lawsuit, lead by Russ Seelig, has been ongoing for about three years.

Seelig says the city has lost an estimated $2 million in property taxes per year for the undervaluation of parcels hosting billboards, cell phone towers and antennae. The lawsuit argues that the city should tax the properties at full cash value.

“A one sided wood structure billboard should be taxed differently than a structure that’s made of metal and electronic and it doesn’t appear from the records and documentation that we’ve received that the city is doing that,” the group’s lead Attorney Jeff Morneau said.

Springfield Assessor Richard Allen told 22News that there is a system in place. For billboards, the assessed value of the property is multiplied by the commercial tax rate, which is $38.60 per thousand square feet. Typically it’s around a $16,544 in taxes for a year with a billboard along I-91 and $13,580 for I-291. Electronic signs are not assessed, but there are different sizes taken into account.

A parcel with a cell tower is taxed at $29,700 per tower. The tax does not take into consideration how many cell phone carriers or services use each tower.

City Solicitor Ed Pikula says they are in the middle of depositions and will file to have it dismissed.

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