NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 3, 2012

Official's tax debt under question

Opponent calls selectman's override endorsement hypocritical

(Continued)

Story said even though it will be difficult for him to have his own taxes raised, he will vote for the override because it is needed to address a serious deficit in the town’s operating budget. He said in the end, the question is not about one individual, but what is in the overall best interest for the town.

But Boucher accused Story of attempting to defeat the majority of override opponents by attrition and questioned the irony of a town selectman presiding over an aggressive delinquent tax collection campaign when he himself is delinquent.

“Three sky-is-falling override attempts in 18 months, but the town’s senior elected official is on tax holiday?” Boucher said.

Finance Committee Chairman Frank Remley called the issue of tax arrears “old news” and suggested Boucher’s “real motivation is to squelch Newbury’s override request by attacking the elected chairman.” Remley added that Boucher has campaigned against every override for two years and, despite an open invitation, has chosen not to discuss his specific complaints with town officials.

“He has declined, apparently preferring to shoot from cover rather than discuss,” Remley said.

Voters have rejected two previous tax hike attempts to fund town operations. A larger override — for $950,000 — failed by 200 votes last year. Then in May, a $293,000 override was turned down by just 50 votes.

Selectmen have argued that the cuts that resulted from the override failures have created a dangerous gap in public safety services.

Given the low voter turnout for the May election, selectmen agreed to place the override question on the ballot for Tuesday’s state election — which is expected to generate high traffic at the polls — in hopes of giving more taxpayers a chance to weigh in on the question.

At a town meeting earlier this month, voters overwhelmingly approved the proposed tax hike without discussion. But the measure still requires a majority vote at the polls Tuesday for passage.

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