HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) - A group of Holyoke residents rallied prior to Tuesday's city council meeting to call for a vote to raise property taxes to build two new middle schools.

The estimated cost would be $131.5 million, with a state reimbursement of around 60 percent.

Taxpayers would have to cover close to $56 million. Mayor Alex Morse wants to cover the cost with a proposition 2 1/2 override, which would increase residential and commercial tax rates for around 30 years.

The Holyoke Mall is the city's largest taxpayer. The general manager said the override would add $600,000 to the mall's annual tax bill, which he called an "extreme hardship."

Holyoke City Councilor Rebecca Lisi said better schools will attract more residents and businesses, which would ease the tax burden.

"In doing so, we will attract even more investors, more businesses, and more families to the city. Who together will help us grow the community and stabilize the tax base," Lisi said.

"Are we trying to put the Holyoke Mall out of business?" Holyoke resident and former city councilor Kevin Jourdain questioned. "Retail is really hurting, and not only would we lose the $600,000 they would be paying, we would also lose the $8.1 million they are already paying."

In order for the schools to move forward, the City Council would need to approve the proposal, and taxpayers would have to agree to the tax increase on a debt-exclusion ballot measure in November.

Story source: Rally urges vote on Holyoke school proposal, tax increase

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