Likely challenger wonders if city still needs tax cap
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — As one of Laconia’s most popular barbers, Breanna Henderson listens to people talk about politics all day.
Now she’s heard enough and wants to do something about it.
Henderson, 28, is seriously considering running for the Ward 4 City Council seat held by Brenda Baer, 90.
“I get tired of waiting for other people to do things,” said Henderson, owner of Polished and Proper on Main Street.
“I don’t have children in the school system, but I have plenty of customers who do and they’re concerned.”
Plenty of teachers sit in her barber chair. They tell her they think about leaving the school district for better paying jobs even though they grew up here and love teaching here.
“That concerns me a lot,” Henderson said.
She wonders if the property tax cap has outlived its usefulness.
“Times have changed,” she said. “Do we still need that cap if we want to foster the growth that needs to occur in the city over the next 10 to 20 years?”
She said the city needs to do what is necessary to attract younger people and grow, rather than trying to “save taxpayers cents on the dollar.”
“In 10 to 20 years,” she said, “the majority of people who are the tax base will no longer be the tax base; they are aging out. Hopefully, the goal of the city will be in attracting a younger generation to offset the majority of the tax base being people on fixed income.”
No matter how good Laconia is, it needs to do a better job of marketing itself, Henderson said.
“If we are not seen as fantastic, that’s a problem,” she said. “Perception is reality. Personally, I consider it the city’s responsibility to create an environment that fosters economic development. You need to make yourself appealing. The city needs to make itself the best thing since sliced bread, including amenities, recreationally and educationally.”
For her part, Baer has been outspoken in protecting taxpayers and preserving the tax cap. She notes that many taxpayers are on fixed incomes and simply can’t afford tax hikes.
She welcomes a competitive race, noting that turnout in city elections tends to be low. Two years ago, Baer, like most councilors, ran unopposed.
“I have served my Ward and the City for the past 11 years in the only way I can,” she said in a letter announcing her plans to seek re-election. “Honestly, bipartisan, and with my only agenda doing what I can to make improvements in the city without hurting the taxpayers and non-taxpayers.”
She said some of those who want to end the tax cap are moving in the wrong direction.
“They want to spend, not for the good of the city, but for their own agendas,” said Baer. “Spend without thinking how it affects the lives of the young, the old, the poor and the middle class. They appeal to special groups. Some use fear, some are dishonest in their claims. Most are people who can stand the tax increases that will come, but they forget those who cannot.”
Mark Haynes, 69, facilities manager at Lakes Region General Hospital and Ward 4 moderator, is also planning to run against Baer.
He said there is no magic bullet for improving the city, but said great things can happen when the public and private sectors work together.
It was that approach that “grew Meredith to what it is now,” he said.
Tax incentives can be part of the picture in boosting economic development, he said.
He said the Colonial Theatre project is an example of something that will help downtown.
“I think Laconia, over the next period of years, can grow, and grow ourselves out of some of the issues we face. I would look to the growth of the city to make it better than it is.”
The candidate filing period for municipal elections is Aug. 2 through 11. The primary election is Sept. 12 and the general election will be held on Nov. 7.
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