BERLIN — Hoping to encourage economic growth and to support the non-profit service sector, the town of Berlin granted $6,951.39 worth of tax abatements Monday.
The Berlin Community Housing (BCH) and Berlin Community Improvement Association (BCIA) received a combined $2,951.39 in tax abatements from the town.
According to Town Administrator Tony Carson, granting the organizations an abatement, which is when the town waives a portion or all of the property tax it should collect, has been a tradition in Berlin for more than three decades. Mayor Gee Williams agreed that the two agencies have been providing important services to the town since they were founded in the 1970’s.
“It is almost unimaginable how far things have come,” he said.
Williams explained that the BCH and BCIA were in large part responsible for the overhaul of subsidized housing and community improvement that the town has seen. In fact, he pointed out that Berlin was the first municipality in Worcester County to begin work on quality subsidized housing.
“They were sort of pioneers in that regard,” he said.
The agencies also manage the multipurpose room on Flower Street as well as the Head Start Center, a preschool with more than 100 students age 3-5.
While not all non-profits receive abatements, Williams explained that the BCH and BCIA were unique cases because of their history and level of impact on Berlin. He went so far as to call the services they provide “game changing” to the town.
“[Abatements] are something we have to do on a very targeted basis,” Williams said.
That philosophy held for the other business to receive an abatement that night. The property owned by Kwang Oak Park and Soon-AE had $4,000 in property taxes waived by the town over the next two years, $2,000 this year and $2,000 the following. Unlike the first two abatements, the third did not receive unanimous endorsement from the council.
Councilman Troy Purnell was the lone vote against passing the motion.
“It starts a little precedent,” he said.
The purpose of the abatement is to help Burley Oak Brewery, the first microbrewery in Worcester, have an easier start-up in Berlin. Purnell remarked that he was in favor of bringing business to Berlin, especially one as unique as a microbrewery. Additionally, he acknowledged how difficult those first few years usually were for a business.
“That first year is so critical to getting started,” said Purnell.
The reason he voted against the motion, he explained, was that the abatement was being granted to the owners of the property, not the brewery itself, which only leases the lot. While he asserted that he trusted the property owners and that the abatement would almost certainly benefit the brewery, he did have a minor issue with how the proposal was worded.
The rest of the council, however, had no qualms with the motion and it easily passed. Much like with the BCH and BCIA, the brewery receiving an exception is uncommon.
Williams again highlighted that the brewery was a special case, as it is the first of its kind in the county and helping it to get up and running will hopefully encourage other unique businesses to look toward Berlin as an ideal location.