Bennett: City has to devise tax plan

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LEWISTON – More city tough talk on tax reform will likely wait until later in the summer.

City Administrator Jim Bennett said councilors need to come up with a way to alleviate the property tax burden on their own, before they go before state legislators.

“Right now, we need a game plan of our own,” Bennett said. “To be effective, you can’t go into those discussions empty-handed.”

Bennett, Mayor Lionel Guay and the City Council announced last week they were scrapping a citywide property revaluation. The city’s property tax commitment would have remained level with last year, but the tax burden would have been been redistributed. Taxes on five of every six homeowners would have gone up an average of $500 because of the revaluation.

Councilors scrapped the revaluation last week, saying Maine’s property tax system was broken. They blamed state tax rules for the problem and urged candidates for state office in Maine’s November election to meet with them.

Six legislators mailed the city a letter this week saying they’d be willing to meet with the council to talk tax reform. It was signed by Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Androscoggin County, and Representatives Sonya Sampson, D-Auburn, and Elaine Makas, William Walcott, Margaret Craven and Lillian O’Brien, Lewiston Democrats.

“We shouldn’t choose sides on this,” Walcott said Wednesday. “We need to come up with ideas together.”

Walcott said he was surprised when Lewiston abandoned its revaluation and blamed state government for the problem. Local delegates worked hard to make sure Lewiston received a good share of state income.

“That doesn’t happen by accident,” Walcott said. “I know that’s been helpful in holding down property taxes.”

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