The Amesbury Public Schools represent 52 percent of the budget (with another 6 percent going towards other education-related items) and will be the subject of the first Finance Committee public budget hearing 7 p.m. at City Hall tonight. Finance Committee member City Councilor and Council President Joe McMilleon said he looks forward to the process beginning.
“I think the mayor has done a really good job of looking at the budget very closely,” McMilleon said. “I know that he worked very hard and very close with the school committee to get their budget within a reasonable realm. More comments and more points of view will come, I am sure, during the hearings.”
The Department of Public Works’ budget is down 2 percent for FY2015 from $1,358,277 to $1,331,044 and will be the subject of Thursday night’s hearing. The hearings will continue for the next three weeks before the budget is officially approved on June 17.
Gray also outlined his long term plan for the city; Decrease the rate of property tax increases while maintaining or improving municipal services and meeting previously contracted financial obligations. Invest in education in order to strive for excellent schools but not at the cost of digging deeper into the property tax hole. Focus on initiatives that will result in expanding the city’s commercial/industrial tax base to raise future revenue without further burdening homeowners.
“For many years we have faced two very large and very challenging financial problems in Amesbury. Enormously high and ever increasing property taxes (and) consistently under funded schools,” Gray wrote. “These are deep problems with no easy solutions and neither problem can be solved by itself without negatively affecting the other.”