NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 7, 2012

Amesbury mayor: high tax rate is overhyped


Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the Editor:

Things must be going too well in Amesbury. The Newburyport Daily News is back to writing headlines that stir up controversy with no substance. Yes, Amesbury’s tax rate is going up and yes, Amesbury has one of the highest rates, being the 10th highest residential rate in the Commonwealth last year. Last week, the Newburyport Daily News conjectured in an article that Amesbury was possibly going to be number one in the state with a “record breaking” tax rate. Both conjectures are wrong and I’m not sure what “record” they were referring to, but it sounded good.

Tax rates don’t matter, tax bills do. When ranking average single family tax bills, Amesbury was ranked 69th in the state. A respectable rank for the level of services we provide and for being listed along with several dozen western Massachusetts communities that barely exist as local government services go.

So here is a headline for the Newburyport Daily News to run, “40% of all Amesbury Residents to Receive Tax Cut.” Yes, so despite falling values, causing the rate to increase, many residential taxpayers will see their tax bills go down. Of those who are seeing an increase, 46% of those will see an increase of less than $200 for the year.

The average single-family tax bill will increase $128. For this “average”, we have invested $600,000 more in our schools and accelerated much needed infrastructure improvements. A portion of this “average” increase on single-family homes is a result of other categories of residential property values falling at a greater rate than the single-family homes. Most condominium owners will see significant cuts in their tax bills due to the 8% decline in overall condominium values. The single-family homes that will see the larger increases are the newer, larger homes, some of which have actually increased in value by nearly $40,000 in one year.

For many residents, they bought a house in Amesbury because it was affordable. It is that lower, affordable value that makes buying a home possible for so many. Divide that lower value into providing the services the residents expect and you get a higher rate than those high-priced communities that provide the same municipal services. What matters most then, is the amount of the tax bill to pay for those services. Amesbury is ranked in the middle of the pack when compared to our neighboring Essex County communities. There’s no headlines there.

Thatcher W. Kezer III

Amesbury Mayor