Member Anne Manning-Martin wasn’t buying it.
“Of course (businesses) look at the tax rate,” she said. Otherwise, “everyone would be taxing businesses to the hilt.” She lamented that the city will “tax businesses because they can. That’s what I’m hearing.”
Further, Manning-Martin worried about residents asked to pay a lot more than a $95 increase, sometimes four times as much. “I don’t think anyone’s going to be happy — frankly — with what we’re doing tonight.” She wondered why more money wasn’t taken from the city’s cash reserves in order to ease the impact.
Bettencourt replied, “You can’t have it both ways.” He called for balance between what’s taken from businesses and residents. He also reminded the council that a healthy cash reserve will make it easier and cheaper to arrange loans for looming projects like the new Higgins Middle School.
Only one private citizen spoke, former mayoral candidate Russ Donovan, who was impatient with the council’s concern over business taxes. He noted that residents and the Northshore Mall will bear almost all of the increased spending.
“Small business will be getting a tax cut,” he said.
He decried the impact of the increases on those living on fixed incomes. “How do you tell a retired homeowner it’s only $100, you can afford it? ... As President Obama says, the rich can afford to pay more.”
Meanwhile, the value of the average Peabody home increased by $4,100 to $289,900 over the past year. Schaffer noted that values seemed to have “stabilized.” But that amount is still a far cry from the 2008 high point of $340,200 for the average home.
The council passed a motion to set the recommended residential rate of $11.98 on a 9-2 vote, with only Manning-Martin and member Rico Mello in opposition.