City manager: Governor's budget shifts $1.1 million onto local taxpayers

By Daniel Dunkle | Jan 15, 2013

Rockland — In his Jan. 14 report to city council, City Manager James Smith said he was extremely disappointed by the governor's proposal to suspend state revenue sharing.

Gov. Paul LePage, seeking extensive state budget cuts, has proposed suspending revenue sharing payments to towns for two years. State revenue sharing gives towns back a portion of the sales taxes collected in their communities. In addition, the homestead exemption and commercial excise taxes would be cut.

Smith said this is really a tax shift that would place an additional burden of $1,114,000 on the property taxpayers in Rockland. He said to maintain present city services under this proposal, it would mean $215 in increased property taxes to anyone owning a home assessed at $150,000. That would just be to cover the municipal budget, not taking into consideration any increases in school or county funding, he said Jan. 15.

To cut city services to offset the cost increase would mean eliminating multiple entire departments — the library, assessment department, fish pier and legal department, he said.

"That's not cutting fat," Smith told the city council. "That's cutting lean muscle."

In a phone interview Jan. 15, the city manager said the state started tinkering with the revenue sharing laws eight years ago under Gov. John Baldacci to help balance the budget. That should never have happened, Smith said, because the municipality has no other way of raising revenue to offset these costs.

He also noted as a service center, Rockland raises a great deal of money in sales taxes in the county.

With the cuts to school funding, Smith said it would amount to a $526 increase for the property taxpayer with a $150,000 home.

Elizabeth Dickerson, who currently serves as both city councilor and the District 47 State House representative, said she felt she was in an awkward position in this discussion. She noted she has been posting information at elizabethdickerson.com.

Councilor Larry Pritchett said the local sales tax money that comes back in revenue sharing is really the community's money.

In other business, the council voted 5-0 to authorize $90,000 for repair and replacement of electrical control equipment at city pump stations. The money will be taken from the city Wastewater CIP Repair and Replacement Reserve Fund and will repair and upgrade controls for the Park Street and Glenwood Avenue pump stations.

The Park Street station, close to the harbor, is the city's largest and Glenwood receives the leachate from the landfill.

Pritchett said these are critical pieces of the city's infrastructure. Without the upgrades, the city could face higher repair costs in the future, or worse, wastewater impacting the environment.

A public hearing was held concerning proposed sidewalks outside the Recreation Center on White and Limerock streets, around the playground. The project is being funded through a Maine Department of Transportation grant.

Andrew Hedrich from Gartley & Dorsky presented the preliminary plan for the project and answered questions.

Part of the project will include crosswalks on Limerock Street next to the Recreation Center. Councilors expressed concerns about placement of a proposed crosswalk close to the intersection with Union Street at the bottom of the steps to the center. They felt that could endanger pedestrians.

Councilors also wanted to see the sidewalk added to go from Limerock Street along White Street up to the library. Hedrich noted that anything not included as part of the MDOT project could end up costing the city funds.

He said he would work on the proposed changes, and the plan could be finalized in two or three months and receive funding in 2014.

The council voted in first reading to approve amendments to ordinances to be tougher on parking violations and homes with rowdy residents. Public hearings are planned for the Feb. 11 meeting before the changes are finalized.

Among the changes, people with four or more unpaid parking tickets may face having a "boot" placed on their car that prevents it from being driven until the tickets are paid. The present rule is five tickets.

Another proposed rule change would define a "disorderly house" as any building which the police have visited three or more times in any 60-day period or 10 or more times in a year in situations created by the owner, tenants or guests.

The existing law states that it would have to be visited by police five or more times in 30 days. The proposed change adds teeth to help police enforce order and protect neighbors from ongoing disturbances, according to city officials.

In other business, Smith said paving work on Main Street and Union streets will take place May 1 to July 1 with the work being done mostly at night from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. to keep from affecting local businesses. The pavement being used is expected to last eight to 10 years.

Mayor Will Clayton started the meeting by warning residents that the ice is not yet safe for ice fishing, and Pritchett said that is really a statewide issue that couldn't be solved simply by going up north.

Clayton said the meeting on school safety will likely be held Wednesday, Jan. 30 with about 30 people from fire departments, EMS, police, school and city attending. The meeting is being held as a result of the recent school shooting in Connecticut. It will not be public due to sensitive security information at the meeting.

News Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at ddunkle@courierpublicationsllc.com. Follow him on twitter at @DanDunkle.

Comments (18)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 18, 2013 18:14

There is no doubt that the city council can come up with the cuts. The thing is are we ready to live with them? We have become pretty spoiled with the excellent services we have from ALL of our city employees. We just do not have the money for "business as usual".



Posted by: Nina Reed | Jan 18, 2013 08:39

Richard my can do attitude went down the drain a long time ago. how can people do if the taxes is more than a person,s income.  the city will never stop spending because they dont care id people have the money or not. when you lose your home to taxes the the city will own it like they do everything else. its more housing for all the tourist the city attracts. patricia willims



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 18, 2013 05:34

Looks like this is going to be a time of showing that we are a  "CAN DO" town; and that we can survive with less. Either we are going to lose some local services or more people will be losing their homes. What are you willing to give up? Because change begins with you and me, not cutting the feller down the road.

ALL non-profits need to pay property taxes. The only fair way. Museums, churches, hospitals, civic organizations. EVERYONE.



Posted by: michael b benner | Jan 17, 2013 20:44

Too many nonprofits not paying taxes.



Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Jan 17, 2013 20:03

Why not have small local sales tax on luxury items, ie., things we can do without?  I am not going to drive to Augusta or New Hampshire to save a buck per $100.  Once one town starts to charge a sales tax, the others will follow.



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jan 17, 2013 18:47

MARIAN IS CORRECT. TAX MONEY COMES FROM EVERYONE AND THAT PAYS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT, SCHOOLS, COUNTY, STATE WHILE NON-PROFITS LIKE CHURCHES, GOODWILL, SALVATION ARMY, AND ANY OTHER YOU MAY THINK OF ARE ALL SUPPORTED BY WE THE TAX PAYERS. THE ONLY KEY IS TO CUT SERVICES, CUT SPENDING, CUT FRILLS, EXCESSIVE PAY, PAYOFFS, AND GET SOME ACCOUNTABILITY BACK INTO OUR LIVES BUT I LOST THAT ELECTION PLATFORM THREE TIMES SO ALL I CAN SAY IS WE ARE IN DEEP STUFF AND IT WILL FALL ON THE BACKS OF LITTLE PEOPLE JUST WAIT AND SEE. COUNT THE NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES IN GOVERNMENT AT ALL LEVELS, LOOK AT THEIR PAYCHECKS. LOOK AT SCHOOL BUDGETS, NUMBERS OF EMPLOYEES AND SO ON. WHY DOES SOMEONE GO TO WORK FOR $20,000 A YEAR AND BUY A CAR THAT COSTS $30,000 THEY WILL BE PAYING FOR FOR 5 YEARS. EVERYONE NEEDS CABLE TV, NOT ME IT IS GONE. TRY LIVING WITHIN YOUR MEANS, NOT FUN I,T IS CALLED FIXED INCOME OR ANOTHER TERM: SOCIAL SECURITY. ANYONE WITHIN OUR GOVERNMENT DECISION MAKERS DO NOT LIVE WITH THE SAME CONSTRAINTS FIXED INCOMERS LIVE ON. DO YOU THINK ANYONE IN THE CITY, COUNTY OR STATES GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR MINIMUM WAGE, EVEN THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE IS GENERALLY PAID FOR OR AT LEAST IN ROCKLAND I BELIEVE IT IS AROUND 80% IS PAID FOR. LOOK AT OTHER BENEFITS. ALL KINDS OF TIME OFF: BEREAVEMENT, COLD DAYS, LAZY DAYS, SNOW DAYS, HOT DAYS, AND THE LIST GOES ON AND ON. WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE THAT WORK FOR THE CITY OF ROCKLAND NOT LIVE HERE: THEY CAN NOT AFFORD THE TAXES. wE HAVE NO CLUE AS TO WHAT IS TO COME.  (I TYPE LARGE SO I CAN READ IT BETTER, THANK YOU)



Posted by: Nicole Jeanette Boutin | Jan 17, 2013 15:41

There is a lot of blame to go around. 1st the school joining forces with Thomaston...we spent over $600000 just for new uniforms and branding...do we have $600,000 to spend? Then the school system told us we would save money with this move ,whenever they say that hang on to your purse. They spend our money like we have it...we don't, now unfortunatly people are going to lose their job and benefits to lower taxes....



Posted by: Marian Robinson | Jan 17, 2013 09:52

Where do you think that the state and federal government would get the money to pay property taxes to the city?



Posted by: craig a christianson | Jan 16, 2013 21:26

Two things I am very glad to see coming is the new pavement on Main and Union St. It is long overdue. The sewer smell from Glenwood Ave. is back as of the other day, so I am also glad that something is finally going to be done about it. Now if we can do something about the methane smell from the dump.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jan 16, 2013 08:56

Oh, and by the way great idea....let's start charging the state and federal gov. Taxes on their properties in the city.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jan 16, 2013 08:54

So here's the city manager (who makes about $100,000 plus benefits a year)talking about trimming muscle. I think there's lots of fat to cut before we ever get to the muscle.  Maybe they should send back that ($100,000) camera they just bought and what about the ($30 grand) to tear down the McDougal school.  I could go on, but the bottom line is STOP spending money you don't have.



Posted by: John Skinner | Jan 16, 2013 07:17

Its been long overdue to make some local cuts to afford the Rockland taxpayers a break. If the city raises your taxes and the Homestead exemption is reinstated in two years as the Governor claims. I guarantee the City will not lower the budget .



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 16, 2013 06:20

Keep the heat on folks or nothing will change.



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jan 15, 2013 21:52

THE PEOPLE ASKED FOR IT AND HERE IT COMES.



Posted by: Jon Koski | Jan 15, 2013 20:15

Maybe this will force the city council to get serious about the budget and stop the shell game.  Currently, I don't feel there is any physical restraint in the city government.  Hey, how about that city garage??



Posted by: Richard Randall | Jan 15, 2013 15:51

I agree, Richard. Citizens cannot take much more on their backs. Time for the city to move OUT of their comfort zone.



Posted by: Walter Metcalf | Jan 15, 2013 15:45

How about charging the State for all property they own in Rockland.



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 15, 2013 15:09

These aren't the only things changing. The tax credit refund will also be ending for those under 65. I hope that this is not going to be more business as usual in budget negtiations. It is time to do some serious cutting BEFORE more people lose their homes. 



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