, Newburyport, MA

December 18, 2012

Another tax increase in Amesbury

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Tonight (Dec. 10) I was faced with a choice. I had a choice to attend a town meeting about taxes or attend a family obligation. I made the right choice in my mind, but I sit and wonder why I had to make a choice in the first place.

Our town and our nation are faced with a fiscal crisis. Our leaders and people are torn about who should pay more and what sacrifices we all must make. Tonight, my focus is local. What are we doing in the time of fiscal crisis?

Our leaders are proposing two solutions as if they are the only choices we have. Solution one: raise property tax rates. Why do we need to raise the rate? Property value continues to decline and the thought is to keep revenue the same by increasing the rate. Mayor Kezer says we should not make a judgment until we see our tax bill. The argument is that we will not be paying more.

But are we? A person’s ability to buy a house is based on how much they can pay per month, which includes principle, interest and taxes. So if taxes go up, then value of the property will decline in order to keep the affordability of the town the same. So what is the true cost of raising the rate? It is a decline in the value of our assets and net worth.

Solution two: use “free cash” to cover the net shortfall. The City Council wants to make up the shortfall by using one-third of our free cash. Is this a wise move? What if Mother Nature decides to tell Al Gore he’s wrong and give us a really long, cold winter? If our budget is like usual, we will run out of money allotted for snow removal and heat and have to go into reserve funds or find the money somewhere else. I guess it is good to be prepared for these things by having “free cash” on hand.

Now let’s bring this back to a choice. We have more than two choices, but the two on the table are easier and less painful for the town to choose from. We the people, who fund this town through our taxes, are not a limitless supply of “free cash.” As a matter of fact, we are facing a financial cliff nationally that will raise the tax burden on all of us unless things are voted to stay the same, exactly the same (not just a so-called increase on the rich). As a taxpayer, I will need to make some tough choices on how I spend money next year because I won’t have as much to spend, even if I keep my job at my current level and get a 5 to 6 percent raise (which will still be below the status of “rich” or a millionaire who makes more than $250,000/year).

Mayor Kezer wants to increase the tax burden and lower our personal net worth; the City Council wants to gamble on our future. Why shouldn’t the city face the same tough choice we, the taxpayers, do. If revenue is going to decline for reasons out of local control, a change of spending habits is warranted. Review how we spend every dollar, make the city feel the same pinch the taxpayer feels. Stop spending money in places that don’t promote growth or add value to our city. If the mayor and City Council want to lower our net worth, we have the power to take away their positions each election cycle and should consider doing so.

Wilmin Bartolini