“Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
On the first page of this website I wrote that one of my goals was to “Minimize property tax growth, but continue to provide good basic services to the townspeople.”
What are basic services? What do taxpayers expect in return for their money? What is municipal government’s basic mission? What is municipal government good at?
When the answer to each of these questions is more or less the same—it’s a basic service, expected by a large majority of the townspeople and we’re good at it—I support spending, and raisng taxes if necessary, to support the service.
Most all citizens have come to expect the following services:
- Fire protection
- Police protection
- Public works including street maintenance, snow removal, and curb-side trash and recycling
- Good public schools
- Other public safety related functions such as life safety codes enforcement
A large majority spending to support:
- Parks and recreation
- Our public library
But huge disagreements occur when we begin town government expands its mission beyond basic, expected services, or when we begin to serve our own needs–the needs of the council and staff–before those of the citizens. In most of these cases, I have voted against additional spending. Examples include:
- My vote against the $1 million tax break given to the developer of the Maine St. Station hotel. The town had already committed great resources to the project through out joint development agreeemnt (JDA) including an outright gift of the land and millions of dollars in site preparation work including environmental remediation, sewer and water work and all of the road work (much of the costs of infrastructure work was returned to us through grants from federal agencies). In the end this tax break cost us a great deal more as the town was sued by other local hotel owners who felt we were giving one business an unfair advantage; costs of the lawsuit–directly to the taxpayer–exceeded $100,000.
- My vote in the fall of 2010 against spending $1 million on the land at Stanwood and Pleasant Streets for the police station until we had a coherent plan to complete the project. As discussed under “New Town Buildings,” I have always supported a new police station but believed a plan encompassing all the costs had to be presented. This was done during June and July of 2012 when a complete and comprehensive plan, including all anticipated costs, was presented.
- My vote to sell the Longfellow school to Bowdoin College for the $2 million they offered, instead of accepting a trade of a the McClellan building destined to be the new town hall. As discussed under “New Town Buildings,” I believe the hidden costs of the project including renovation of McClellan building, disposal of the old town hall building at 28 Federal St., and the inevitability of a new town a parking garage to support the new town hall and Maine Street Station make this project much more expensive than advertised.
- If a new parking garage is built local property tax dollars should not be used. This item is currently listed in the town’s capital improvement plan (CIP) at a cost of $3.4 million. There is a hope that other tax dollars (grants from federal or state economic development agencies) for approximately $2 million can be obtained. So far all grant applications have been rejected. If this parking garage becomes a necessity it should be paid with by the BDC (see BDC page).