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Tax ordinance placed on Mexico warrant
MEXICO -- A tax ordinance proposed by resident Albert Aniel will be placed on the annual town meeting, but there are legal questions still to be addressed.
At a special Board of Selectmen's meeting held on April 30, about 15 citizens were in attendance as Board Chairman Richie Philbrick announced that the tax ordinance was deemed valid and could be placed on the town meeting warrant.
Prior to voting on the issue, Selectman George Byam amended a previous motion to accept the tax ordinance to include a legal opinion by the town that would state whether or not the ordinance would take effect in 2013 or 2014.
As of April 30, Aniel's tax ordinance states if residents vote to accept his tax ordinance, it would go into effect immediately.
Aniel said, “As far as I'm concerned, if this passes to vote, it takes effect immediately. It's just like any other budget item. If it's not voted down by the voters, the selectmen and the Budget Committee can get together, try to hash out the differences and come up with something else. There's no reason that this cannot be done.”
Byam replied that the budget had already been set for this year, while Aniel pointed out that if the people voted the ordinance through, it would override the budget that had already been approved.
“Is there a way to reword the ordinance to let people know that this would take precedence over the budget we'll be putting up for vote?” Selectman Byron Ouellette asked.
Town Manager John Madigan said that it's “entirely up to whoever wrote it” to make amendments to the ordinance.
In addition, Madigan noted, "There's a lot of questions in the ordinance we'd have to get an opinion on."
He said the town's budget is "already to go." The ordinance indicates that it take effect immediately. Madigan said if all the budget articles pass and then this ordinance, "What takes precedence? We already have the budget done. I don't believe it can take effect this year?"
Aniel indicated that if the ordinance passes, the board would have to come back after adoption of the budget.
Another issue is that the revenue sharing the town is supposed to receive is $621,529. If Gov. LePage has his way, zero dollars will be available for revenue sharing to the state's municipalities.
Madigan questioned how a town can do a budget when they may not know until the end of June if they'll received revenue sharing.
He said the loss of the revenue sharing monies would mean no police department, no recreation department and no library. "That's the value of it."
Aniel suggested starting with a 10 percent cut this year, which will make it easier to cut an additional 10 percent next year, instead of a 20 percent cut next year.
Resident Andy Dupuis added, "Taxpayers can't make up $621,000."
Madigan responded, "Everyone knows that. If the Governor gets his way, we know we'll have to come back again (for the budget)."
Aniel said the $300,000 the petition is talking about cutting would leave the town's municipal budget at the level it operated on about three or four years ago.
During the April 23 selectmen's meeting, Aniel presented his tax ordinance before the board, in a petition on several sheets signed by 135 people, exceeding the required 108 signatures required.
It proposes to cap the operating cost of the town to the amount of $2,726,731, which is a 10 percent decrease in the previous year's operating cost.
According to the ordinance, if residents approve it at the annual town meeting in June, it would be locked in for five years.
However, according to an April 30, 2013 correspondance to Madigan from town attorney Geoffrey Hole of Bernstein Shur, after contacting the Maine Municipal Association, that he's in agreement with MMA Legal Services that the proposed ordinance, if approved by voters, could be amended or repealed at any subsequent town meeting.
Ouellette, who said he signed the petition, told the board, “This has been a long time coming. It's time to put a stop to the spending. I really think that this is a step in the right direction for the town.”
Following the session, Madigan said this ordinance and the legal opinion will be shared when the public hearing on all the articles takes place on or before June 1. The referendum town meeting vote will take place on June 11.