AMESBURY — Amesbury's per capita spending is higher than what communities of similar size spend on average to deliver services to constituents, but bringing it in line with the average would mean 18 percent cuts to services.
That's what a recently formed Ad Hoc Tax Committee has discovered since their first meeting on Feb. 25, and that's the information the nine-member committee will be using to try to determine what it would take to lower Amesbury's tax rate — currently ranked fifth highest in the state.
Invited by the Municipal Council to study what contributes to the high taxes in Amesbury, the committee was formed in early February and has met twice so far, according to former Municipal Councilor and committee Chairman Jonathan Sherwood. During that time, they've delved into the budget and ended up taking a hard look at Amesbury's per capita spending, he said. Most of the members have been critical of how much Amesbury spends compared to other communities.
"After a first organizational meeting on Feb. 25, the committee dove into the question of affordability at its March 4 meeting," Sherwood said in a recently released report of the committee's findings to date. "The committee looked at per capita spending for the next six larger and the next six smaller communities, in terms of population."
What they found is that Amesbury spends 18 percent more than the average when it comes to providing fire, police, school and public works services to residents. That means in order to bring figures more in line with similar communities, Amesbury would have to trim $8.3 million off its $47 million budget, which could lay the groundwork for a difficult discussion on how that would affect services.
"Since the schools, public works, water, sewer and public safety make up the vast majority of the town's budget, this is where we would have to look for substantial cuts and savings, to bring us toward average," stated Sherwood. "Our final meetings will be looking at this and the potential impacts on services."