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WAMC New England News
Mon July 20, 2009
Pittsfield Schools Dropout Rate and Budget Down
By Charlie Deitz
Pittsfield, MA – Pittsfield Public Schools have managed to cut their dropout rate almost in half, that's according to a recent report issued by the state department of education. At the same time, the school district is looking at making over 600 thousand dollars worth of cuts to the upcoming year's budget. Our Berkshire Bureau Chief Charlie Deitz has the report.
City Councilor Bud Williams convened a meeting of the economic development sub-committee he chairs inside a downtown sportsbar at noon Monday. Williams said he wanted to get public comment about the city's intention to levy a local tax of 0.75 percent on a restaurant check. The co-owner of JT's Sports Bar - Keith Makarowski - said it may be less than pennies on the dollar, but he insists it will be bad for business.
The state meals tax in Massachusetts is going up from the current five percent to six point two five percent. Municipalities can add a local portion that would bring the total tax to seven percent. Several people eating lunch shrugged off the pending tax hike. Restauranteur Makarowski says there will be a cumulative impact as the tax siphons discretionary dollars.
Springfield was the first municipality in the Pioneer Valley to adopt the local option meals tax. Chamber of Commerce executive director Russell Denver said it will leave the more than 200 restaurants in the city at a competitive disadvantage if neighboring communities balk or delay.
Councilor Williams said the process of adopting the meals tax was tainted. He said while other communities that are considering the tax have had or will have public hearings, that was not the case in Springfield.
Asked how he would make up for the lost revenue if the tax is rescinded, Williams said he would impose a hiring freeze, and also look to restore a program from a decade ago that allowed the city to reduce health care costs, by importing prescription drugs from Canada, something that is currently unlawful.