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April 4, 2013

Mixed reviews for meals tax

Some officials turn up noses at added tab

AMESBURY — A proposal to institute a local meals tax in Amesbury has run into stiff opposition and likely won’t come to a vote until at least May.

Several members of the City Council this week expressed concern about creating a new tax at a time when so many residents are already dealing with high property taxes, while the bill’s supporters argued that the tax would serve as a new revenue stream separate from property taxes and wouldn’t create a substantial burden on restaurant patrons.

If approved, the local meals tax would impose an additional 0.75 percent charge on the price of meals, or 38 cents on a $50 tab. The local tax would be in addition to the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

Councilor Christian Scorzoni, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the tax could create $200,000 in new revenue for Amesbury. His vision is that the taxes raised would go into a new stabilization fund intended specifically to fund road and sidewalk repairs in Amesbury.

“Lots of municipalities are out there leveraging these tools given to the cities by the state, and the argument I’ve been trying to raise is that we should diversify our revenue so we’re not just hitting up people’s property taxes,” Scorzoni said.

On Monday night, the Finance Committee was deadlocked on the measure, voting 4-4-1 on its passage to send the proposal back to the City Council with a divided recommendation.

Councilor Allen Neale cast the final vote, choosing not to take a side by voting “present.”

Councilors Christian Scorzoni, Anne Ferguson, Robert Gilday and Bob Lavoie voted in favor of the bill, while Donna McClure, James Kelcourse, Derek Kimball and Joseph McMilleon voted against it.

On Tuesday, the Ordinance Committee decided to table the bill until its next meeting on April 16, meaning the City Council will likely decide at its meeting next Tuesday to continue its public hearing on the proposal until May 14.

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