Seacoast Online

PORTSMOUTH — The Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers discussed tax caps last week at their first meeting since the City Council expressed its plans for a zero-increase budget for to 2010 fiscal year.

The APT met with Matthew Murphy from the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition to find out what the process would be for imposing a tax cap, which would limit any future budget increases to the rate of inflation.

APT President Bill St. Laurent said a ballot vote in November would be required to change to city charter. The process would need to begin soon, he said, but it is not something the APT is convinced is needed at the moment.

“Right now we’re just talking about it … We’re giving them the benefit of the doubt here,” said St. Laurent. “But when push comes to shove, the spending has got to stop if they want the people who elect them to be able to afford to stay here.”

While the budget process is still in its infancy, St. Laurent said he and the other APT member are largely encouraged with the council’s goal of keeping a level tax rate. However, he said he would like to see cooperation from various department heads and commissions to reach that goal.

“We hope the other departments will follow their lead and present a zero budget, if not a lower budget,” said St. Laurent.

The association, which St. Laurent said is made up of between 100 and 150 residents, had many questions for Murphy at their Jan. 21 meeting. Several municipalities, including Dover, have their budgets held to the annual rate of inflation because of a tax cap, he said.

To get something on the ballot for November would require roughly 800 signatures on a petition. The meeting was mostly for informational purposes, according to St. Laurent.

“It’s nothing were planning to do at the moment,” he said. “We’re just getting a feel for what would need to be done.”