In a letter to the editor published by The Daily News yesterday, he called the high tax rate irrelevant and said the real figure people should look at is the tax bill, which is the actual amount that families pay in taxes.
“Tax rates don’t matter, tax bills do,” Kezer wrote. “When ranking average single family tax bills, Amesbury was ranked 69th in the state. A respectable rank for the level of services we provide.”
In his letter to the mayor, Gilday acknowledged Kezer’s concerns, but said given the steep increase in the tax rate, the city needs to show its willingness to address the rate and mitigate further increases in the future.
“Although I recognize that the tax bill itself — not just the rate — should also be taken into consideration, the steep increase in the overall rate has the very real ability to create a chilling effect on local economic activity while serving as a major deterrent to families that wish to stay or relocate to our community,” Gilday wrote.
Amesbury currently has $1,274,000 in free cash, along with $1.3 million in its stabilization account. Kezer said he wants to save $1 million of the free cash for emergency purposes while spending the rest on road repairs, school renovations and solar projects.
The city is also $1.8 million under its levy limit, which is the total amount that the city is allowed to raise in taxes by law annually under Proposition 21/2. Kezer said these reserve funds were a major factor in Amesbury’s bond rating being increased by Standard and Poor’s Rating Service earlier this week from an A to an A+.
Chief Financial Officer Michael Basque said he agrees with Kezer’s approach and that using free cash to subsidize the taxpayers would be no different than using it to cover budget shortfalls, which he called a losing long-term fiscal strategy.