PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth City Council voted 5-1 to put a 1.5 mill street resurfacing levy in front of voters for the upcoming May 20 primary election.
The levy amounts to fifteen cents for each one hundred dollars of property tax valuation annually from 2022 to 2026. The average home in Portsmouth is valued at $60,617. As such, the new tax would cost property taxpayers approximately $90 dollars more per year.
Freshman Councilman Sandlin was a vocal opponent of the levy, stating the city should use its existing budget on infrastructure problems.
“I am a very strong proponent of infrastructure,” said Sandlin. “I agree our city streets need paved. But, I do not agree that the way to do that is to go to the people of Portsmouth with a tax levy. We are having people leave our city in large numbers. And one of the reasons is because our property tax rate is not competitive in comparison to the cities around us…if we continue to raise taxes we will see a large exodus from the City of Portsmouth.”
The rest of the council seemingly disagreed.
“This proposal was put together by our City Engineer in a very methodical and careful way,” said 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon. “He has rated every street as to the condition it is in. And streets are the number one complaint we all get. To attract new citizens and to attract new business, I’m a firm believer that we have to make the city look better.”
“Property values will increase with nicer streets,” she added.
City Engineer Nathan Prousch asked for the levy to spearhead his large scale road resurfacing program, which would eventually see all roads in Portsmouth improved upon.
“This is a one time shot at this,” said Freshman Councilman Andy Cole. “There hasn’t been an engineer for a very long time. That’s why our streets got to this point…putting this in front of people and letting them make an informed decision over this for the next five years is huge. And this increase will not be forever. This simply gives our residents a chance to be part of this change – if that’s the direction they choose to go.”
“But if we continue with status quo, we will never be able to get over the hump and properly care for our streets.”
Mayor and 1st Ward Councilman Sean Dunne also issued his vocal support for the levy.
“Fixing our roads is unquestionably something the public wants,” said Dunne. “We knew that a few years ago when we appointed the new City Engineer. His background is in roadways…If there is an expert in road infrastructure it is Nathan.”
Dunne said this will give voters a chance to weigh in on the issue directly – pass or fail.
“We are listening to our bosses, here. We aren’t the heads of this City – the people are. And so we are presenting this option to our bosses. They can agree to pay for this levy and follow the advice of our City Engineer – and improve the roads at a quicker pace – or not. This reduces the distance between citizens and public policy and gives people more involvement in government.”
“This can pass or this can fail – but at the end of the day voters will directly be heard,” said Dunne.
The new levy will go before voters in just over four months. Until then, the council promised to continue seeking grant funds to help pay for resurfacing programs.
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