Taxes are truly an issue that never goes away in Amesbury, and if you thought there would be a couple months of respite between last month’s tax classification hearing and the annual budget discussion in the summer, keep dreaming.
Case in point, tensions boiled over at last week’s City Council meeting, when Mike Buetow of Cabot Court spoke out about how he and his neighbors’ tax bills had all increased by over $1,300 this past year, which he noted was more than the increases experienced by all nine members of the council plus the mayor combined.
That line of reasoning didn’t go over well with the council, and it drew a stiff rebuke from councilor Derek Kimball.
“I get it, it’s tough, but when I hear you comparing the mayor and the council to a neighborhood and like the assessor is fixing the numbers, I’m sorry, there’s no conspiracy,” Kimball said. “I just want to say enough.”
Considering that the big ticket item on last week’s agenda was a vote on the Stretch Code, which doesn’t have much of a direct impact on the city’s taxes, the intensity of this exchange was somewhat surprising, even though I suppose it shouldn’t have been.
Buetow has been circulating a petition calling for a 5 percent spending cut across the board for the past month now, and since the new tax rate of $20.24 was certified in December, most of the city councilors have indicated a desire to cut spending to bring down the rate as well.
But the council has been criticized in the past for not doing enough to keep taxes down, with opponents accusing them of talking tough on spending and then voting yes anyway.
As the city moves closer to budget season, there will likely be a lot of discussion over what cuts need to be made and how deep those cuts will have to be. At the same time, the process of relocating the Department of Public Works garage out of the Lower Millyard and the impending construction of the new Heritage Park will also likely fuel continued grumblings from opponents who believe the city shouldn’t be spending money on those projects either.