Town Representatives Approve Siemens Tax Break

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Town Representatives Approve Siemens Tax Break

The Siemens building expansion is set to begin in........ (NEED INFO)

The Siemens building expansion is set to begin in........ (NEED INFO)

The Siemens building expansion is set to begin in........ (NEED INFO)

The Siemens building expansion is set to begin in........ (NEED INFO)

Julia Sandquist

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The Siemens building expansion is set to begin in........ (NEED INFO)

The Siemens building expansion is set to be completed on or before December 2026.

It is no question that Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics has a significant impact on the town of Walpole. The employees at the current facility comprise about 5.6 percent of Walpole’s employment, and the facility contributes to one third of the town’s total industrial value and pays industrial real estate property taxes of more than $1.1 million.

Now, one of Walpole’s biggest taxpayers is looking for a 75% tax break over 20 years, officially known as a Tax Increment Financing agreement (TIF), to expand its Walpole facilities in a $300 million expansion project titled “Project Bluebird.”

Siemens and the Board of Selectmen first discussed a possible tax break for the company without public knowledge during two executive sessions on Aug. 11 and Nov. 3. The Board claimed the discussions were excluded from public meetings because they fell under the state open meeting trade secrets exemption.

Walpole town representatives voted 76-51 to approve the TIF during a special town meeting at Johnson Middle School on March 7.

Precinct 1 town representative Larry Pittman said, “Although I thought discussing the TIF without public knowledge was unfair, I voted yes because it will increase the amount of life sciences manufacturing jobs in Walpole.”

The majority of the Board of Selectmen are for the TIF, while selectman David Salvatore is the sole opposer to the agreement. The selectmen in favor of the TIF argue that it will create 700 new jobs and will ensure that a lucrative business, whose monetary expenditures bring an estimate of $6,700,000 to Walpole, will remain in the town for more than 20 years. If Seimens was not guaranteed a tax break from the town, it might have been more likely to expand in another town. This loss of revenue would be devastating for Walpole businesses, for the Walpole business community has continued to grow as a result of Siemens’ locally purchased services estimated at $500,000 a year.

Selectman Cliff Snuffer said, “The tax break allows Walpole to keep a socially conscious corporate partner whose contributions can be calculated in the hundreds of millions.”

However, not everyone is as eager about the prospect of one of Walpole’s biggest taxpayers receiving a significant tax break. Selectman David Salvatore and town representative Sam Obar are among those who are against the TIF because they believe the deal to be economically unfair for the town.

Although there has been a discussion about creating 700 new jobs, the current TIF agreement only requires Siemens to fill 400 job slots. Out of the 600 employees currently at the Walpole facility, only about 32 live in Walpole, so there is a concern about how many new jobs will actually go to Walpole residents.

Obar said, “With the addition of 400 employees, the number of Walpole residents employed is expected to increase only by 15. The total net revenue to the town of Walpole over 20 years actually drops as the number of additional employees increases due to the cost of servicing them and their families.”

Salvatore added, “It is unfair to give special treatment to one business and [expect] the others to pay in full. If Siemens was willing to pay their fair share, we would not struggle to fund our schools or pay down our debts. Just because it may be the best deal we can get does not mean we need to take it.”