High School Reporters November 21, 2017

Small Business Tax Changes Spark Heated Debate
Ayer Board of Selectman Meeting
November 21, 2018
Writer: Bryce Valliere, ASRHS Correspondent

A heated debate broke out between the Board of Assessors, the Board of Selectmen, and the public as all three groups expressed different views on the new tax rate.

Among other things, the hot topic of the night was fiscal year 2018. The two main things that were discussed in detail were the potential of a small commercial exemption and the new tax rate for fiscal year 2018. Being a public hearing, a few members of the public, the majority being small business owners, came to speak on the issues.

The first issue that was detailed was whether or not to institute a small commercial exemption for the Town of Ayer. A small commercial exemption would benefit smaller businesses in the form of tax relief. It would be available to approximately forty-four businesses in the Town of Ayer; for businesses to qualify they would need to have ten or fewer employees on average annually and have a valuation of fewer than one million dollars.

For the most part, the members of the public who attended supported the adoption of the small commercial exemption, but the Board of Selectmen and Board of Assessors seemed to be in agreement that such an exemption would not be the most beneficial move for the Town as a whole. Based on that, the small commercial exemption was rejected at least until fiscal year 2019.

The members of the small business owner’s contingent, as upset as they may have been from the rejection of the small commercial exemption, were not through yet. If the small commercial exemption did not go through, they wanted an alternative, a lower tax rate for the businesses. They were looking for the tax rate to decrease as far as 1.50.

After a long discussion in the public forum, involving several members of the community, the Board of Assessors, specifically Tom Horgan, and the Board of Selectmen, Selectman Luca proposed a tax rate of 1.54, which sent the public into a frenzy and reopened the discussion about the small commercial exemption.

In other business, Mark Wetzel, Superintendent of the DPW, sought approval of several items. The Board of Selectmen passed a request for new LED streetlights, a plan for new water pipes to be placed near Snake Hill and Sandy Pond, and an agreement to transfer a tractor to the Town of Shirley as it is useless for Ayer at this point. In addition, the issue of the Groton Harvard Road power outage from the fallen tree, as a result of a recent storm, was addressed and ideas on how to prevent such outages in the future was briefly discussed.

One other issue that was discussed was the preservation restriction of the Pleasant Street School. Alan Manoian, Director of Community and Economic Development, came in to discuss this with the Board of Selectmen. The issue was passed and will be good for the next ninety-nine years. Mr. Wetzel also explained that they are waiting on the contractor for the dog park construction to be officially begin. They are hoping for the park’s completion by mid-spring.