SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – While Attorney John Connor of Connor, Morneau & Olin Law Firm claims, “They just were not following those guidelines;” Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said, “We were following the rules and regulations.”
Two very different opinions on whether the City of Springfield is allowing tax breaks to billboard properties; which a judge estimated is $1.2-million in lost revenue.
Russell Seelig, along with 19 other Springfield taxpayers, filed a “Ten Taxpayer lawsuit” against Springfield’s Board of Assessors. He told 22News, “I found that there were billboards not even on the tax roll, and that too was very shocking.”
Seelig used to work for the City, and said Springfield intentionally and illegally undervalues billboard property, so owners can pay less in taxes. He said, “It’s a matter of fairness for all of us who own property in the City and pay property taxes.”
He added that it’s not just billboards, it’s happening for cell tower owners as well.
We asked one of the lead attorneys on the case, Attorney John Connor, why the City would do this. He said, “I think they also had the mentality to be business friendly in some respect and that may have motivated them.”
While not commenting on the lawsuit, Mayor Sarno disagrees; “We go after every dime we can legally get our hands on. So people have different points of view, and we’ll let the courts decide.”
The City tried to have the case dismissed, but Judge Michael Callan ruled there is “an abundance of case law” supporting the claim. So now, it will go to trial.
22News is working to find out who owns the properties in question, and these billboards. We’ll continue to follow this story.