Seacoast Online

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

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

APT President Bill St. Laurent said it would require a ballot vote in November 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,” St. Laurent said. “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 members are largely encouraged by 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,” St. Laurent said.

The association, made up of between 100 and 150 residents, had a lot of questions for Murphy at its 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 we’re planning to do at the moment,” he said. “We’re just getting a feel for what would need to be done.”