, Gloucester, MA

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October 11, 2013

Letter: Candidates must address city's fiscal picture

To the editor:

The countdown for Gloucester’s mayoral and City Council election is upon us.

Gloucester finds itself in an enviable position with balanced budgets over the past six years and free cash that has accrued to over $13 million during the last 4-years including a projected $3 million for fiscal 2013. On top of that, our AA Bond rating has again placed us in a great position to leverage solid credit with terms and rates that other lesser cities and towns yearn for.

It sounds great but … is it? Like everything else when things are too good to be true, there might be a looming hangover when we have a too good to be true truism. And this is the case here where every citizen Gloucester should take notice.

Yes, it’s true we have six years of balanced budgets and we have had $13 plus million of “free cash,” but at what price? The trends are disturbing and with them come unintended consequences that must be addressed by the next mayor.

Look at our residential real estate tax rate.

In six years, our tax rate has catapulted an unsustainable 46.57 percent ($8.61 to $12.62) If you owned a home in Gloucester with an assessed value of $400,000 in 2007, your real estate tax would have been $3,444 per year.

The same home with the same assessed value of $400,000, your FY2013 real estate tax is now $5,048. Now that’s assuming your assessed value of your home hasn’t increased, but city wide, it has.

City budget records show that citywide property tax assessments for fiscal 2009 were $54,767,617. For fiscal 2012 (the last year records are available), citywide property tax assessments were $61,581,582 or an increase of 12.44 percent in three years.

For the sake of example lets add that 12.44 percent increase to our $400,000 property bringing the new assessed property value to $449,760.

Tax it at $12.62 (2013 rate) and your new tax for FY 2013 is now $5,675.97 — $2,231 more in just six years. That hurts!

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