AMESBURY — Saying it is time to cut spending, the City Council last night begrudgingly approved the new single tax rate of $20.24 for the coming year with a vow to bring costs under control in the next budget season.
The vote came as more than 50 residents packed City Hall Auditorium to voice their displeasure during the city’s annual tax classification hearing, which saw the council maintaining one rate for both the residential and commercial property in the city.
The discussion lasted late into the night, with the main issue at hand — whether to have a single tax rate or a split rate — lost in the overall debate over the tax rate itself and how to bring it down in the future.
While a few residents suggested finding creative ways to raise revenue outside of raising taxes — one idea in particular was to build solar farms all over the city on land that isn’t being used for anything else — largely the consensus was that spending in Amesbury had grown out of control.
“We’re going to be cut on local aid, which is going to put a further burden on our property taxes,” Councilor Joseph McMilleon said. “This can’t continue, the housing card is going to fall, it’s just a matter of time, so I see our only option is to stop spending.”
Most of the residents were particularly unhappy about the raises that city employees have received in recent years. Councilor Jim Kelcourse especially questioned the mayor about newly hired Assistant Superintendent of Schools Deirdre Farrell.
Farrell, who is leaving Newburyport schools to join Amesbury, will take over the duties previously held by former business administrator Mike Bergeron, among other duties. Bergeron earned $94,000 annually, while Farrell’s salary will be $129,000, which is what she had earned as assistant superintendent in Newburyport.