In response, Kezer said his job is to make the best decisions for Amesbury and not necessarily the most popular ones.
“I can’t control other people’s agendas,” Kezer said. “All I can do is focus on those metrics that have a real impact and not get distracted by the emotions of the moment on metrics that we care about but don’t have the bigger impact.”
Another key criticism from councilors was that they weren’t aware that the city’s property values would be declining so sharply. They said had they known sooner, they might have tried to do something about it. Saying he was also surprised by the decline in values, he said he informed councilors as soon as the assessor’s office presented him with the numbers.
“I didn’t realize it was going to be that significant,” Kezer said. “It’s when they finished their work and the state has checked it that their numbers are valid, that’s when they briefed me. So (the councilors) learned about it shortly after I did.”
Kezer explained that the assessor’s office has to collect the data, validate it and have it certified by the state before any conclusions can be drawn. This process takes several months, and there wouldn’t have even been useful preliminary numbers to work off of during budget season in June.
Even though he believes the focus should be on the tax bill, Kezer did say he would like to see the tax rate reduced in the future. Going forward, he said he hopes to combat the perception that Amesbury is too expensive by changing the conversation and focusing on the schools, the atmosphere and everything the city does well.
“As far as branding, we need to get back to what our strengths are,” Kezer said. “There are a lot of them. We just need to be talking about them.”