During last October’s municipal election campaign those seeking election to Amherst town council were bombarded with complaints about property taxes with the business community leading the charge.
Now that Amherst has responded by lowering both residential and commercial tax rates, both home and business owners should be prepared for what could happen next.
Amherst has managed to make numerous improvements to its infrastructure and downtown without having to borrow a lot of money. That’s a good thing. The projects were completed, partially as a reason of the town’s strong tax base and also because the town has been doing a good job putting money away for a rainy day.
Although not as ambitious as previous capital plans, the town still has a number of projects on its agenda, some of which are being put on hold or slowed down so it can offer tax relief.
Amherst did the right thing by lowering the tax rate, although many property owners will still find themselves paying the same or more for taxes because of rising assessments. But, lowering the residential rate by three cents and the commercial rate by 10 cents per $100 of assessment means the town is going to have about $300,000 less revenue as it moves forward with its capital projects and running the town.
It’s also important to note that your tax dollars go to providing the services that make Amherst an attractive place to live and do business. Maintaining parks, the stadium, streets, sidewalks and the water and sewer systems comes at a cost. We need to spend wisely to maintain those services while balancing the tax burden they represent.
Deputy Mayor George Baker said he supports the tax increase, but is fearful of the direction the town may be taking. He believes tax relief is a good thing for the community at this time, but he said he is also thinking of the future and wants to avoid a situation that plagues many municipal units that are forced to borrow large sums of money to pay for capital projects down the road.
The last thing this community needs is a huge debt load that will either have to be paid off through higher taxes or by passing the burden onto to our children and grandchildren.
This budget is something the town needs because it balances the concerns of taxpayers with maintaining services and moving forward with the town’s strategic priorities. It’s probably the best we could ask for.