In Which We Do Some Math In Ward 4.

It’s local election time, or as we at the Clam like to call it, “the time of the year we yearn to be eaten by coyotes.” We’ve noticed a few local city council races heating up, especially in Ward 4. So our guest poster today is Stephen Voltz, a lawyer and partner at Eepybird! He also wrote the book “How to Build a Hovercraft,” which is awesome because it teaches you how to build a goddamn hovercraft. Anyway, he had an interesting thought about Ward 4 candidate Kathryn Goodick. 

Last Friday evening I went to a small Coffee with the Candidate event for Kathryn Goodick at a friends’ house out on Wheeler’s Point.  I had been invited by the couple who was hosting it, both of whom I’ve known for some time, and both of whom I know to be smart, thoughtful and extremely nice people.

There was some cocktail party like conversation to begin, then we all sat down in the living room to listen to her speak for about 10 minutes or so on why she was running for city council.  The focus of her pitch was that taxes in town are too high, that the reason they’re too is that there’s so much waste and unnecessary spending in the city budget, and that the politicians who run the city won’t let the citizens see the budget in enough detail to meaningfully review it.

She opened her talk with a very effective story about how she became involved in local politics not long ago when she opened her property tax bill to discover that she’d been hit with a shocking 17% tax increase.

Her taxes were now so high she told us, that if she and her husband were to give their house to their children, her children still wouldn’t be able to live there because they wouldn’t be able to afford pay the real estate tax on the property.

She gave her pitch very effectively. I suspect she’s done it before and will be giving it again and again in living rooms all over Ward 4 until the election.

After she finished there was a Q & A session in which I asked a few questions primarily directed to asking her to talk about what plan she had, if any, for addressing the problems she raised. Because of another commitment I had that evening I had to leave before the Q & A was done.

After I left however, I did some fact checking into some of the things she had told us, and was disturbed by what I found. Saturday evening I sent her the email shown below.  She never responded.  On Monday evening I sent her another email asking for a response.

Radio silence.

I’m passing this all onto the Clam because it now looks to me as though Kathryn Goodick’s standard stump speech, the talk she’s likely giving in living rooms all over Ward 4 as she campaigns to be one of our next city councilors, is based on stories she simply fabricated. Her taxes haven’t gone up by 17%. Not recently, not ever.  At least not as far back as the 11 years easily available records go.Over the past 11 years she’s had an average annual tax increase of about 2-3%.And the story about her kids also appears to be less than plausible. And so does the claim that a regular citizen can’t get the details of the city budget. It’s very discouraging.

Initial Email, sent Saturday evening:

Hi Kathryn,

I was the tall bald fellow in the brown shirt who asked a few questions and had to leave your coffee early last night. Again, my apologies. I really wish I’d been able to stay.
I’ve been thinking about what you said last night though and some things are concerning me.
First, as I recall you told us that a normal person can’t get to see the city budget, and as a result none of us can really know how City Hall is spending our money. When I asked you what your plan was to address the financial concerns you were raising, you said that you didn’t have a specific plan because you hadn’t been able to see a detailed budget.


That made sense. But then when I looked online this morning, I found this.
Gloucester Massachusetts Budget FY 2016
There’s 142 pages of budget detail here. That seems like more than enough to outline a fiscal plan for the city.
I feel a little misled. You also told us that the reason you started to become involved in city politics was because you had had opened an envelope not too long ago to find a 17% spike in your property taxes. You said that your taxes are now so high that even if you gave your house to your children now they wouldn’t be able to live there because they wouldn’t be able to afford the taxes

That’s a really compelling story. But it’s hard to fit with the numbers I’m finding today. And maybe I’m missing something, if so, please let me know. According to the city’s records, in 2006 the real estate taxes for your home at 10 Dogtown Road were $4,852. Eleven years later, in 2015, they had risen to $6,347. That’s a nominal 2.8% annual rate, and in line with Proposition 2½. And it’s pretty much what every homeowner in the state gets hit with every year.

The biggest spike I see for your property was from 2014 to 2015 when all our taxes got the big water and sewer bill shift. But even that year your taxes only went up from $5,843 to $6,347. More than usual, but still, a one time increase of just 8.63%. The 17% spike you told us about last night would be twice that. Am I missing something?
And of course when we all got hit by that 8-9% spike we all knew what it was from. It wasn’t sudden overspending by the city, it was just the shift of the cost of the water/sewer debt the city has from our federally mandated sewer overflow project off our water bills and onto our property tax bills. (Not a good decision in my book, but it wasn’t the kind of irresponsible overspending you were telling us about last night.)

And after I left last night I also realized that I don’t really understand how you say to us that if you gave your children your house they wouldn’t be able to live in it because they wouldn’t be able to pay the taxes. Real estate taxes on 10 Dogtown Road are $6,347 a year. If you gave your children your house, living there would only cost them $530 a month. That’s more than affordable. Where else in Massachusetts can you rent a house for $530 a month?

I’m disappointed to say that the more I think about what you told us last night the more I feel misled.
I would very much appreciate anything you might be able to tell me to clear any of this up.
Thanks in advance,
Stephen Voltz

Follow up email, sent Monday evening:


Hi again Kathryn,

Haven’t heard from you re my email from Saturday.

I’m hoping you’ll let me know if I’m mistaken in my understanding of things or if there’s anything important you’d like to add that you feel I may be missing.

Thanks in advance,


10 Dogtown Tax History

Link: Real Estate Tax History – 10 Dogtown Road, Gloucester, MA (Douglas and Karthryn Goodick), T by E

Fiscal Year


Increase (Decrease)

% Increase









































*Estimate based on (Q1 and Q2) x 2


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  1. This needs to be spread – GDT (for the 8 remaining people who read the thing), CAO, wherever.

    And the same questions need to be asked of her in all public forums going forward.

  2. Ward 4 resident here. This Clamvestigation is just what we need to know – the truth! I do hope then when the candidates must make public their campaign finance reports on October 28th that there will be another Clamvestigation. All those signs and mailings that some of the heretofore unknown candidates are scattering about the Cape (honestly, photos of Italian cooking? Patriots game calendars?)- it is a wonder to me who would pay for such irrelevant and wasteful info… and why.

  3. Thanks to The Clam for publishing this. I live in a house with a similar tax burden. I think the difference is that I am well aware of what my increases have been and why. I also know that I have access to the budget. Kathryn seems well rehearsed at her stump speeches. The problem is she is disseminating false information. Another reason to vote for Val Gilman.

  4. Bravo, Sir.
    And Bravo to the Clam Entire for this exposeé style coverage we would surely never see from the Gloucester Daily Appeaser. My barely-informed choices at the preliminary election look better every time I read your articles.

  5. Martin Del Vecchio

    I love the smell of facts in the morning. Smells like…reality.

  6. She also claimed that her high taxes were the cause for pushing off a kitchen renovation:

    “Resident Kathryn Goodick spoke about how her increased taxes have prohibited her from being able to afford to remodel her kitchen as planned” from Councilors Get an Earful on Taxes (February 26, 2105). If she really put off an entire renovation over what amounts to a few hundred dollars…

  7. Congrats! Great investigative reporting! Show this piece to the GD Times. Some old person down there might know what to do with it.

  8. Thanks to The Clam once again!

  9. Wow. Well done. If only the paper did their just investigating on these races and claims. I’ve heard some crazy stuff in this years race: lies about education, broad stroking “baby killing” liberals, and now “I can’t afford renovations” & ” My kids are soon to be homeless” .. classic. Thanks for being The Clam.

  10. Martin Del Vecchio

    She makes the same 17% claim at the 2:00 mark of her campaign video on YouTube:

    She goes on to say, “I went to City Hall. I gathered people together to help me, and we asked the right questions, and we were told to go home.”

    I am curious as to who she talked to, and who told her to “go home.”

  11. I can say for a fact that she had access to the budget. As the Chair of Budget and Finance I would have given her a copy of it had it been requested. Ask Val Gilman, she used my budget book when she attended meetings, while I worked off my notes. She never attended any meetings and I even had an extra meeting for anyone who wanted to ask questions. No one attended.

  12. As someone who works at the library I know for a fact that she can walk in and ask for budgets back decades for both the schools and the city.

  13. I posted the link to her Facebook page in hopes that it would illicit a clarifying response. It did not. Instead she wrote:
    “False and misleading reporting again – shame on him for writing such stuff about me – clearly a Val supporter -”

    I don’t know who she is saying “shame on him” to, but I responded with:

    “I’m curious what you consider to be false and misleading Kathryn. The data cited is public record information, your statements are on the record, and math is math. Can you respond specifically? In your campaign ad you say that your taxes went up 17% yet the records available suggest an increase of half that. If you have other data perhaps you would set the record straight. ”

    Only to find that the comments are no longer accepted on her campaign site.

  14. Martin Del Vecchio

    Comments are still accepted on her campaign’s Facebook page, Jason. Just not from you, apparently.

    There is even an older thread about GoFundMe in which people are apparently responding to comments by you, but there are no such comments.

    So I think she just blocked you from her page.

    • Perhaps we can all ask her… on facebook, youtube, in person. I’m sure she’s got a perfectly reasonable explanation, seeing as how she’s all for transparency and fiscal responsibility.

  15. … Or here, at the Lanesville Debate, next Wednesday, October 28 at 6PM at the Lanesville Community Center.

    After all, she’s encouraging people to show up with signs before the debate. That property tax table would probably look really pretty on poster board.

    Or maybe we could make a banner of the 142 page copy of the FY2016 budget…

  16. Martin Del Vecchio

    As it turns out, the water and sewer bills are online too:

    Her four most recent water bills, traveling backwards in time:

    $119.00 August, 2015
    $ 77.61 May, 2015
    $ 83.58 February, 2015
    $ 77.61 November, 2014
    $357.80 Total

    The four previous water bills, again traveling backwards in time:

    $137.31 August, 2014
    $137.55 May, 2014
    $137.55 February, 2014
    $170.94 November, 2014
    $583.35 Total

    So her water bill went from $583.35 the previous year to $357.80 this year, a drop of $225.55, or 38.7%.

    In that same year, her property tax went up from $5,798.17 to $6,298.11, an increase of $499.94, or 8.62%.

    So the decreased water rate covered a bit less than half of the increased property tax.

    Combining these two bills, last year she paid a total of $6,381.52, and this year $6,655.91, an increase of $274.39, or 4.30%.

    So this whole kerfuffle is over a grand total of $274.39.

    But wait, there’s more; her home’s assessed value increased this year, from $446,700 to $461,400 ( That is an increase of 3.30%.

    So if the city had not shifted the burden from water to property tax, and had everything else stayed the same, she could have expected to pay 3.30% more this year than last year. Instead, she paid 4.30% more.

    That 1.0% of last year’s combined bill ($6,381.52) is $64.

    So this whole kerfuffle is actually over a grand total of $64.

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