By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News
---- — AMESBURY — Over the past week, Amesbury’s veterans have been honored for their service through numerous Veterans Day events. On Tuesday night, the City Council showed its gratitude by unanimously passing a tax-relief measure that will allow veterans to work off as much as $1,000 of their annual tax bill.
The new program, which will parallel the existing tax work-off program for seniors, will allow veterans to work part-time jobs for the city in exchange for credits toward their property tax bills.
The measure was sponsored by councilors Bob Lavoie and Jim Kelcourse, who commended the city’s veterans for their sacrifices and said the bill was a way for the community to give something back. The bill was unanimously endorsed by both the council’s Ordinance and Finance committees.
Once the program is fully implemented, veterans will be able to apply for specific jobs within the city that best match their interests and skill sets. By law, those working will not be able to earn more than $1,000 a year through the program, meaning the number of hours worked will be capped at 125 hours per year and 2.4 hours per week based on the state’s current minimum wage of $8 per hour, Kelcourse said.
The bill broadly defines who is considered as a veteran. However, anyone who has been dishonorably discharged will not be eligible to participate.
Councilor Alan Neale said the fact that disabled veterans who are physically unable to work could have other people work for them to earn the tax credit is one of the best parts of the program. A similar provision is not included in the senior work-off program.
“You and I can step forward and work on behalf of the veteran if the veteran is unable to perform the work physically,” Neale said.
Annmary Connor, director of the Amesbury Council on Aging, will be in charge of folding the veterans tax relief program into the existing program for seniors. And Kristen Lucier, the city’s director of veterans services, will work with Connor to ensure that the program addresses the unique needs of veterans.
Taking a cue from the senior work-off program, the city will be identifying various jobs that the veterans can apply for when the time comes. Mayor Thatcher Kexer said that approach has proven more effective than hiring numerous individuals and then trying to find something for them to do later.
The law states that veterans who are hired through the program can’t supplant existing staff.
“We can’t violate collective bargaining laws; we can’t have these folks perform functions that are performed by collective bargaining unions,” Kezer said. “So the tasks that we would assign would be those additional tasks that are generally outside the scope of what the collective bargained unions do.”
Kezer said an appropriation to the city budget will be needed to fund the tax-relief program. The cost will be addressed during the next budget cycle, he said.