Neale said he initially voted in that manner to buy himself some time to do his homework, and he came to support the bill after Department of Public Works Director Rob Desmarais told him how much money it would take to repair all the roads and sidewalks in Amesbury that need fixing.
Neale said his view was that Amesbury should be taking advantage of every possible revenue stream separate from property taxes to help tackle that problem, particularly one that targets discretionary spending while drawing money from non-Amesbury residents as well. He added that he doesn’t believe a 75-cent tax on a $100 bill would stop anybody from going out to eat in the city.
“I’m for getting as much money from other people to help us, I’m for a less aggressive tax, and I’m for trying to get a handle on our $50 million problem,” Neale said.
For some of the councilors who opposed the measure, the idea that the new tax would “only” add a few cents to most bills didn’t make any difference. They argued that Amesbury residents are overtaxed, and the council shouldn’t be approving any additional taxes, even small ones.
“I look at Amesbury in a similar way that many of us do in that it’s a community where many of us have grown up here, so it’s not very uppity,” Kimball said. “I know it’s only 75 cents on a $100 bill, but principally it doesn’t sit well for me.”
Regardless, by approving the measure, Amesbury becomes the 18th community in Essex County to adopt the local meals tax, joining Newburyport, Haverhill, Ipswich and others. The new tax will also remain lower than the 9 percent state meals tax that New Hampshire charges, meaning Amesbury restaurants will retain a competitive advantage over establishments in Seabrook and Hampton.