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Madigan, Aniel debate tax ordinance
MEXICO -- The two-day budget process got off to a really slow start due to a lengthy debate on July 9 regarding the tax ordinance, passed last month by Mexico voters at referendum.
The tax ordinance, drafted by resident Albert Aniel and a lawyer who used to work for the Maine Municipal Association, will go into effect during the 2014-15 fiscal year.
On June 11, residents noted 289-193 to approve the ordinance that would cap the town's operating cost at $2,726,731, which is a 10 percent decrease in the previous year's operating cost. The proposed municipal budget for 2013-14, which voters rejected the majority of on June 11, was $2.99 million, which was $13,767 more than the current year.
Speaking to Aniel, Town Manager John Madigan said, "The town is being run effectively. What you're trying to do is dismantle what has been fixed and working smooth just because you don't like your tax bill."
Aniel said, "The only way the town has been running is because you kept on raising the taxes for all the past years, and I really hate to remind you guys that Mexico is one of the poorest towns in the state. The income in Mexico is 38 percent less than the average in Maine."
Madigan said, "Show me your documentation on these numbers...Our tax value is so much lower. That's why the tax rate is higher.
Those southern Maine towns, especially those coastal towns, the values on those properties are higher, so the mil rate is lower.
The mil rate is only one part of the formula and you can't say just because we have a high mil rate, we're outrageously different than every other town in Maine. We have a high mil rate because we have low property value."
He added. "We have 34 property owners in Mexico that under the Homestead (exemption) don't even get a tax bill because their trailer is valued at less than $10,000. That's unbelievable. That's the kind of issues we deal with. We have such low value, that's the only reason the tax rate is high."
Aniel said, "For the taxpayer in Mexico, for him or her to pay a thousand dollars for their property taxes is a much greater burden than someone in Camden to pay a thousand dollars for their property taxes. You can't say the taxes are the same from one town to another because we are poor and the burden on our citizens is tougher."
Madigan said, "Here's the reality. The value of your property, if you put that in Camden, you're talking about a million and a half dollars and then maybe your tax rate is lower. But I guarantee your tax bill would be higher over there than it is here. That's what people have to understand."
Aniel said, "I'm lucky enough to be able to afford the taxes where I live. But there's a lot of people that I know, a lot of patients of mine, having a hard time paying their taxes and they're really upset. Everyday, I've had people coming to me and telling me how happy they are that we're to change that. So either you guys are going to have these budget committee meetings and you're going to go over and approve the same thing you had last time, which is not what the voters wanted. They refused it. So you've got to come up with a lower figure somehow, somewhere."
Selectman Byron Ouellette added, "I just think that if we come back with the same amount of money, it's just going to get voted down again. Then it's going to force us to go back to last year's (budget numbers). So we've got to make a real good effort to try to get a budget that people will vote for."
Madigan said he plans to refer the document to the Planning Board for review, because he questioned some of the wording.