Going For The Money
By Jody Reese
Recently city government sold French Hall on Hackett Hill to the lowest bidder. It seemed odd city government would choose the lowest offer, but it makes perfect sense in our state’s property tax system. It also shows a bias for white-collar jobs over blue-collar.
On Tuesday, Dec. 7, aldermen voted seven to five to sell French Hall and surrounding property to Brooks Properties, a Salem-based property management company, for $1.2 million. The aldermen chose Brooks over Herrington Corp., a Londonderry catalog company, which offered $1.25 million.
The Brooks development is estimated to create 60 white-collar and clerical jobs, while Herrington would have created 160 full-time white-collar, clerical and warehouse jobs, plus an additional 250 seasonal jobs.
The Manchester Housing and Redeveloment Authority (MHRA ) backed the sale to Brooks, saying that the company’s development of the property was more in keeping with plans for the land. Those plans include a research-and-development facility.
It’s somewhat understandable that the MHRA and aldermen would choose a development with potentially higher property value and higher-income jobs but Manchester needs job diversity more, especially with the loss of 600 Jac Pac jobs last year.
The 160 full-time jobs, of any stripe, would have added more to the local economy than 60 office jobs.
Because of our state’s property tax system, where most local and state revenues come from property taxes, there is an incentive to seek higher property values over jobs. Jobs can also mean children in local schools, and that can cause education costs to rise.
However, in the long term, jobs help a community grow much more than higher property valuations, which really only help the government.
People with jobs buy cars and homes, eat at restaurants and volunteer for charities. Their money is multiplied over and over again, creating wealth in the community, while property tax money really does very little to stimulate economic growth.
The tax system is to blame. If education was funded another way, Manchester officials might have picked the Herrington deal.
This problem can only be solved by changing the way our state and city government collect taxes. Then perhaps, Manchester city government will have an incentive to seek out job creation at all levels of the income spectrum.
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