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December 11, 2012

Amesbury council, mayor heading to tax showdown tonight

(Continued)

Ferguson added that the deadline for the council to vote on the classification hearing is Dec. 17 in order for it to be sent to the state by Dec. 20.

“It ain’t happening this year,” Lavoie said.

Not all of the councilors agreed with that assessment, however, nor did most of the residents in attendance. Jim Thivierge of Friend Street pointed out that the city could send out estimated tax bills if the council decided not to vote on the tax classification hearing, and former Selectman Claude Gonthier asked how much it would really cost the city if they did so.

Councilor Donna McClure suggested the council take those suggestions seriously and look into it.

“I think we can do something, I think it’s a matter of if this council has a little bit of intestinal fortitude,” McClure said. “We can table the classification meeting until the mayor speaks to a few more people.”

“I’m asking the council to think about it tonight, think about how much it will cost us if the tax bills don’t go out and we have to borrow,” she added.

Nobody on hand could say exactly what would happen if Amesbury were to table the tax classification hearing and end up sending out estimated tax bills, if that were even allowed as Thivierge suggested. The councilors indicated they would be seeking answers from the mayor today and would be willing to table the hearing if there was any possibility that doing so could ultimately prompt the mayor into using free cash to lower the tax rate. Amesbury has about $1.2 million in free cash, which is money left over from the fiscal year that ended June 30.

In response to Kezer’s stance that using free cash funds would be fiscally irresponsible and that the tax bill is the figure that really matters, Councilor Derek Kimball said that the high tax rate lends itself to a problem of perception.

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