NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 17, 2013

Mayor plans study on spending to counter 'flawed' report's conclusions

AMESBURY – In response to questions about whether or not the city overspends on its operations, the mayor’s office will be commissioning a study to determine how Amesbury stacks up compared to other similar communities in the state.

Mayor Thatcher Kezer said he would like to have the report finished in advance of this summer’s annual budget discussions, and that it would serve as an updated and more accurate version of the Ad Hoc Citizen Advisory Committee report from 2010, which he called deeply flawed.

“It keeps coming up from time to time, and I know some people say our spending is out of control and then they use that as their example,” Kezer said. “But that’s flawed and our spending is not out of control.”

Jonathan Sherwood, the Ad Hoc committee’s chairperson, said he disagreed with Kezer’s assessment that the report was flawed but noted that the report “was what it was,” which was a group of volunteers coming together to take a closer look at Amesbury’s finances in a short window of time and not a scientific and exhaustive study of the city’s budget.

“We weren’t there to go to that degree, we did the best we could to pull in what struck us at relative data to figure out where we are compared to other communities,” Sherwood said. “I don’t think it was a bad effort, it was short and it was an unscientific group of people.”

The Ad Hoc Citizen Advisory Committee was set up in 2010 by the City Council with the goal of looking into Amesbury’s operating expenses and determining whether or not the city was overspending compared to 12 other communities of similar size.

The nine-member group conducted a five-week investigation and ultimately concluded that the city was spending 18 percent more than the other communities on average. The committee recommended that spending in the fire, police and public works departments in particular should be reduced to bring them more in line with other communities of similar size.

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