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HOLYOKE — After a petition reached the required number of signatures, residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinions through a public hearing at a May 7 City Council meeting regarding a CPA rate change.

The petition looks for the City Council to have the ballot question to amend the current CPA rate to 1% from 1.5%. Mayor Joshua Garcia has already indicated that if approved by the City Council, he will allow the question to go onto the ballot.

This is the first opportunity voters will have to vote on the rate since the CPA surtax went into effect. Holyoke adopted the CPA program in 2016 with a 1.5% surcharge.

In 2023, the exact proposed ballot question was vetoed by Garcia as he sought to have the ballot question wait until the 2024 presidential/state election for more turnout as opposed to a smaller turnout that typically shows up for the city’s general election.

During its April 16 meeting, councilors were happy to bring this long-running potential change to the voters directly to decide on the ballot question.

“The only thing for the ballot question that we need to change is the date that we finally adopt it. In this case, say we did it on May 7,” explained At-Large Councilor Kevin Jourdain about the current status of the proposed ballot question. “We also are passing it to get it on the ballot. It’s a formality step as you can’t put it on the ballot without the council first voting to lower it [the rate], to give the public the opportunity to vote. This is what these 130 and whatever number of residents and businesses have come forward and asked us to do. They want an opportunity to vote.”

Jourdain was one of the most vocal councilors to disagree with Garcia’s decision to veto the question last year. He argued then that most voters would still make it out to cast a ballot for a question important enough and cited when the city voted in 2019 to deny the construction of two new school buildings.

Jourdain, along with councilors Linda Vacon, David Bartley and then-Councilor Will Puello-Mota, went on to legally challenge the mayor’s decision. Ultimately, a Hampden Superior Court judge would deny the attempt.

The legal opinion ruled in favor of Garcia’s veto saying plaintiffs were unable to show a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits as the CPA does not preempt or override the city’s charter.

“Even if it did, the plaintiffs failed to follow the procedure for amending the surcharge as required in the CPA G.L. c. 44B, 16(a). Additionally, the court finds that the plaintiffs have failed to establish that irreparable harm will result from denial of the injunction,” the court wrote. “Economic loss is insufficient as irreparable harm, and there has been no showing of any other harm if the surcharge reduction question appears on the November 2024 ballot instead of November 2023, as agreed to by defendant Garcia.”

Assistant City Solicitor Michael Bissonnette told the council during discussion of the upcoming hearing regarding amending the CPA surcharge that all that was left was for the council to approve the reduction, and then approve sending the reduction before voters in November.

The council is expected to vote on the proposed amendment and to send it to the ballots following the CPA hearing on May 7.

“I want these citizens, and I’m sure everyone on the council one way or another, want the citizens when they come to their citizen meeting, to actually see their council take final action,” Jourdain said when setting up the upcoming hearing.

tlevakis@thereminder.com | + posts