November 23, 2016
To Gloucester City Council:
At last night’s City Council meeting, we heard thoughts on the city’s tax classification, or shift, for 2017 and potential adjustments. As I stated during public testimony, I hoped the classification would maintain the same 1.06% shift, which the city has maintained for 11 years. In maintaining the current ratio during an economically uncertain time, I wanted to reassure our homeowners, families, and the elderly this administration’s goal is to help provide stability for their household budgets. Knowing our financial future gives us all a sense of security.
The claim that we become more business friendly by placing additional taxes on citizens while lowering our taxes on businesses is simply not true. Our administration has put a clear emphasis on economic development and has created a true economic engine of success. The reality is that any prospective business owner is not enticed by a slightly lower tax rate, instead, we know that businesses are attracted to the community and amenities as a whole. They look at housing, access to top job candidates, schools, transportation and other variables found within the community. Tax rates are typically very low on their list, which we reinforced during a presentation by Northeastern University Professor Barry Bluestone just last month.
I’m disappointed that we could not even compromise at a tiered approach starting with 1.03% for business owners. We appreciate all input from our City Council, but when TIF meetings become a rallying cry from the public against a business, and when we extend public hearings around a twenty-five cent increase for our trash bags, I am left disappointed that we couldn’t encourage better communication on this matter as it will affect all residents and their everyday budgets.
We must always aim to provide clear communications between all community stakeholders so as to realize our goals of helping citizens and businesses alike. We must choose our battles carefully, with clear purpose and vision. But I assure you that when taxes go up for all our citizens, you will get phone calls and letters from your constituents complaining about this vote.
I listen to our citizens every day and they cannot afford any increase right now. I echo the sentiments provided by Councilor LeBlanc, Councilor Nolan, and Councilor Lundberg expressing our concerns in disrupting this established and proven shift ratio, putting additional unnecessary burdens on our citizens, and setting a new precedent of corporations over people. I know we had passionate dialogue and I thank everyone for their input.
For these reasons, I’m vetoing this certificate of vote. I ask that the City Council and the City Clerk schedule a special session to determine next steps as a result of my executive action. I recommend we compromise at 1.03% to meet in the middle, but I will honor any result the Council may determine. As always, I will make myself available to further discuss any ideas or concerns you may have.
While this is my first veto as Mayor with this council assembly, I cast it in the name of our citizens and with the optimism that we will continue to work and solve problems together as leaders. I again express my gratitude to you all for your collective hard work on this matter and more.
Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken