Alice Merkl Answers Our Questions
Taxes, Development, Housing
QUESTION 1 – Salems tax rate, both residential and commercial, has consistently gone up around 2% every year. Do you feel that this “stability” best serves the city, or should we take another approach? Please be specific as to the impact on city services that your approach would bring.
I don’t agree with the approach of automatically raising our taxes every year. The goal should be to always look for other resources of revenue to lessen the burden on homeowners and businesses such as grants, state and federal funds for infrastructure, environmental initiatives, etc. Re-purposing empty buildings and structures in Salem into revenue producing properties will increase funds available for city services. Also the commercial tax rate is higher than the residential rate, so encouraging more businesses in Salem would be helpful. As for city services, they at all times need to be properly funded. Overall I think the best approach is to see what revenue we can bring in, examine the cost of properly funded city services, and then see what tax rate increase will be necessary, if any.
QUESTION 2 – Salem has, and is, undergoing a long-term development boom that has impacted every neighborhood in the city. Should Salem take steps to slow development?
There has been a resurgence in the economy that has resulted in increased development over the last few years. Instead of supporting a moratorium on new construction, I feel each development proposal should to be looked at individually. This is where the importance of communication with our community members and neighborhood associations comes in. We need to make every effort to keep the neighborhoods affected part of the conversation in planning developments. We also need to consider the environmental impacts of development, and prioritize maintaining historic preservation and integrity.
QUESTION 3 – Entry level workers, lower income families, hospitality employees, and seniors find Salem to be an unaffordable place to live. How can we best plan to meet the housing needs across all demographics in Salem?
There is no one solution for the housing challenges we face in Salem, but there are many tools we can utilize to start addressing this crisis. I support the current ordinances before the City Council to start taking the necessary steps forward. I also want the City of Salem to continue their strong efforts with the North Shore CDC and Harborlight Community Partners to create affordable housing for people transitioning out of homelessness, and low income and middle income residents. Additionally, the Salem Housing Authority recently hired a skilled executive director who is pursuing grants to improve and expand their housing stock. We need to make every effort to provide choices in the housing market for all economic levels to accommodate all our residents.