AMESBURY — With budget season on the horizon, residents fed up with Amesbury’s tax situation gathered before the City Council to present a report they hope will help councilors identify and address budgetary problems that could help reduce the city’s tax rate.
During public comment at Tuesday night’s meeting, Jane Snow of 44 Fern Ave. gave each councilor a packet containing spreadsheets detailing the city’s costs and salaries dating back to fiscal year 2005, along with detailed budget comparisons between Amesbury and other Essex County communities.
Snow said the goal was to make sure the councilors had all the information going into budget season so nothing would be overlooked.
“I don’t want to hear, `We didn’t know,’” Snow said.
One of the criticisms frequently levied at Mayor Thatcher Kezer and the City Council has been their inability to keep costs, particularly salaries, under control. The report is wide-ranging in its analysis, but one of the more pointed sections is the breakdown of city employees earning more than $80,000.
In 2005-06, the report shows there were 28 employees earning more than $80,000, while in 2011-12, that number had increased to 80. Most of that growth occurred on the city side of the budget, where the number of highly paid employes jumped from 20 to 51 in a span of six years. On the school side, there was an increase of eight employees to 29.
The report also compared Amesbury’s budgets to five other similarly sized Essex County communities: Newburyport, Salisbury, Ipswich, Lynnfield and Swampscott.
In general, Amesbury’s budgets tended to be either in line or slightly more than the other communities. One of the key takeaways of this section was that despite having the lowest average single-family home value ($295,642) of the six communities, Amesbury had the third highest average single-family tax bill ($5,984).