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May 16, 2013

FY14 budget sent to council

Tax rate almost certainly will rise again

AMESBURY — Mayor Thatcher Kezer unveiled his new $59,016,377 budget for the next fiscal year to the City Council at Tuesday night’s meeting, confirming that the city’s tax rates will almost certainly rise again later this year.

The budget includes the city’s enterprise funds, which include the Sewer Department ($2,790,362), the Water Department ($3,815,093) and Landry Stadium ($9,000). Without the three enterprise fund expenditures, the city’s operating budget comes in at $52,401,923, a 1.8 percent increase over the current budget.

The new budget represents a 2.7 percent increase over last year’s $57,438,596 budget, or a total increase of $1,577,781. Kezer also said there would be an estimated levy increase of $1,054,000, bringing Amesbury’s citywide property tax total to $36,978,410.

Kezer said the city is also projecting a $5 million to $10 million decline in total property values this year, and assuming the final numbers fall within that range, he is expecting the tax rate to fall between $20.89 and $20.95, up from the current tax rate of $20.24.

In order to maintain the current tax rate given those projected losses in property values, Kezer said the City Council would have to cut $1.2 million from the proposed budget, and in order to move the tax rate below $20, it would take $1.6 million.

Out of the $941,432 total increase in the operating budget, $800,000 can be traced to the school system. The increase is actually more than $1 million less than the amount approved by the School Committee last month and $1.5 million less than what was initially requested.

Assistant Superintendent Deirdre Farrell said the schools have not yet identified how they will reconcile those numbers and will present more details at next Tuesday’s School Committee meeting.

“The School Committee voted a budget that was $1.88 million more than FY13, of which the level service component was $1.5 million, and early on we knew the numbers wouldn’t match,” Farrell said. “So we’re looking at reductions to meet the budget number of $800,000.”

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