TOWN MEETING in Somerset voted Monday night to approve a $20 million property tax break for the Prysmian Group, which is planning to build a $250 million to $300 million subsea cable manufacturing facility at Brayton Point to serve the offshore wind industry.
The 314-200 vote greenlights a project that has divided the community for months, with supporters hoping the manufacturing plant will give a shot in the arm to the local economy, employ 300 people, and boost municipal tax revenues that have sagged since the coal-fired power plant at Brayton Point was torn down in 2019.
The tax break, which would expire after six years, allows Prysmian to avoid paying a total of $20 million in property taxes while paying $27.8 million. By the seventh year, town officials expect the Prysmian plant to be paying nearly $9 million in property taxes annually to the town.
The state of Massachusetts is providing $25 million to build a pier at Brayton Point where transmission cable would be onloaded to cable-laying ships.
Town administrator Mark Ullucci said at the start of the tax break negotiations Prysmian sought a 20-year deal. He said the company subsequently asked for a $22 million tax break spread over seven years, before settling for $20 million over six years.
Opponents of the tax break said it was too much for such a small community to bear and questioned why an Italian company with more than $16 billion in revenues was asking for so much.
“We want this company, but I also want $47 million,” said Ed Souza, referring to the total amount of taxes that would be owed without the tax break.
Souza also urged his fellow residents to reject the tax deal knowing that the state of Massachusetts and the Biden administration will kick in with the money rather than allow the company to leave. “If you want leverage over a big company, you have it now,” he said.
Pat McDonald said the property tax assessments at Brayton Point don’t add up. He said the entire 308-acre property is currently assessed at $33 million, but town officials are expecting the 47 acres being purchased by Prysmian to be assessed at $56 million. He said that assessment overvalues the property and Prysmian will likely seek an abatement.
Joseph Fingliss, an attorney who stepped down from the Zoning Board of Appeals in the midst of a divisive debate about Prysmian, asked whether residential property tax owners would see their property taxes drop if the Prysmian tax break was approved.
Jamison Souza, the chair of the Select Board, said the Prysmian deal is an important step io stabilizing the tax base in Somerset.
Allen Smith, also a Select Board member, said residential property taxes are likely to go up more if the town fails to bring in significant new tax revenues.