LIVERMORE FALLS — Tempers flared Monday night during a discussion over the tax rate, which selectmen voted to set at 20.80 per $1,000 of property valuation, the same as the past four years.
The commitment gives the town a $71,082.88 overlay.
A proposed $197,861 administration budget has been rejected twice by voters. The article will be revisited by voters in November. A public hearing on the article is set for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, at the Town Office.
The rate is able to remain steady due to the transfer of $180,000 from the town's undesignated fund that voters approved in July.
It was maintained even though the town's share of the RSU 73 school budget increased $128,000 and the town had a reduction of $117,274.99 in state revenue-sharing, Town Manager Kristal Flagg said.
Last year’s state revenue-sharing figure was $351,328 and this year's is $234,053.01, she said.
The town's proposed budget of $2.25 million is $47,774 less than last year, she said.
The tax rate was set using last year's $2.3 million budget due to the unapproved administration budget. The overlay will give the town some money to use in case there are abatement requests that the board grants, she said.
Selectman Kenny Jacques asked if there was any way to lower that rate.
The town's assessing agent is not comfortable going any lower than $20.80 tax rate due to the failure of the administration budget, Flagg said.
It could have gone as high as $21, Jacques said.
Resident Merry Carver asked if there was any way the board could bring the tax rate down. The high rate is keeping people from moving to town, she said.
Jacques said it is the school budget that people should be working on to get lowered. The town's budget is down, he said.
“You guys are working for the people,” Carver said, reiterating that they should work to lower the tax rate.
The meeting you guys want to go to is the RSU 73 school board meetings, Jacques said.
Flagg outlined the percentages the tax dollars go toward in town. Five percent is for the Androscoggin County budget, 49 percent is for RSU 73, and 46 percent is for the town, she said. It is listed on the tax bill.
Everyone at the town level is pitching in to try and save money, Flagg said. She and other staff are vacuuming the town office and doing other housecleaning tasks so the town's custodian can mow town grounds. Due to budget cuts the town only has an 18-hour a week custodian to take care of town buildings and grounds, she said.
When asked if it was costing the town more for school consolidation, Jacques said if they didn't consolidate they would pay more.
The schools lost money, the town lost money, he said.
“I think there is room to cut” in the school budget, he said.
RSU 73's budget of $18.58 million also decreased this year by about $10,000 from last year.
Carver said she felt that school representatives are working together well and looking at ways to reduce spending. She would like selectmen to do the same to decrease the rate.
Jacques reiterated that the town's budget is down and residents should look at other budgets to try and get them reduced.
More discussion went on before resident Richard Korhonen told Jacques that if he did not want to hear requests to lower the tax rate, he should get out.
Jacques told him he is sick of negative comments coming from him.
“Do me a favor and come in here with something positive to say,” Jacques said.
He went on talking and again reiterated that he was “sick” of hearing all the negative comments and no positive comments.
“Ain't that harassment?” Korhonen's son, Michael Korhonen, asked.
“I'm sick of it,” Jacques said. “Go get Ernie,” he said, meaning the town's police Chief Ernest Steward Jr.
“Keep talking and I'll have you locked up,” Richard Korhonen said.
Chairman Bill Demaray told everyone to calm down and get back to the business of setting the tax rate.
There are revenue cuts and fixed costs at the town and school levels, and all government levels that there is no control over, including contracts, heat, electricity and fuel, Demaray said.
“We have a very small percentage we have control of,” he said.
The first half of the tax bill is due by Oct. 23 and the second half by March 19, Flagg said.