By Jennifer Solis
NEWBURY — For a third time, voters once again turned down a $293,000 tax hike last night by a 2,303 to 2,037 vote.
The override to restore cuts and address what town leaders say are deficiencies in the operating budget would have increased taxes by $82 annually on the average home valued at $400,000.
It was the third time an override was put to voters in two years.
Voters rejected two previous tax hikes to fund town operations. A larger override — for $950,000 — failed by 200 votes last year. Then in May, a $293,000 override was turned down by just 50 votes
But after the May election, town leaders heard from many residents who felt they were not sufficiently notified that a proposed tax hike was on the ballot. Selectmen agreed to give the proposal another try this fall, hoping the coinciding presidential election would result in more voters being on hand to weigh in on the tax hike this time.
Both sides of the issue campaigned heavily with members of the social media campaign Newbury Override Yes saying the measure was “what is best for the safety, well-being and happiness of our town as a whole.”
Myfanwy Collins of Newbury Override Yes said the override wasn’t about politics or money, but rather a way to “restore critical town services such as police coverage and fire wages” and keep Newbury “a safe and beautiful place to live.”
But Max Boucher of the anti-override group Newbury Austerity said he believed selectmen were “panicking” about the state of the town’s operating budget. And fellow override opponent Kathryn O’Brien called the proposed override “a forever tax increase” and suggested town leaders “continue along their path of conservative spending and make more use of ready volunteers.”
Here’s the breakdown of how the $293,000 tax override would have been spent:
Finance Department salary and wages: $30,000
Police Department: $100,000
Byfield call fire wages: $25,000
Byfield Fire Protection flat rate: $25,000
Newbury call fire wages: $25,000
Newbury Fire Protection flat rate: $25,000
Public works salary and wages: $29,000
Library salary and wages: $34,000