New Gloucester board raises tax rate

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NEW GLOUCESTER — Selectmen on Monday evening set the property tax rate at $15.80 per thousand dollars of assessed value, an increase of 20 cents from last year.

Under the new rate, a home valued at $100,000 will be taxed $1,580 to fund town government, Cumberland County government and School Administrative District 15.

A townwide revaluation is pending and should be scheduled, Michael O’Donnell, the town’s consulting assessing agent, told selectmen. “We know we have to eventually do a revaluation.”

He said his company, John E. O’Donnell and Associates Inc. of New Gloucester, is willing to sign a contract with the town now.

Instead, the board agreed to send out requests for proposals for a revaluation in 2020.

During the audience participation part of the meeting, a group sought support from selectmen to put a request for a town charter on an upcoming town meeting warrant instead of having the issue initiated through a citizen petition.

Selectman Joe Davis said Monday that on Thursday he requested the topic be added to Monday’s agenda, but Chairman Steven Libby ruled the agenda was full and disallowed it.

Libby, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, suggested it be added to the Sept. 17 meeting agenda.

Also, Town Manager Carrie Castonguay had not competed fact-finding information on town charters by Monday’s meeting.

The group learned from Vice Chairwoman Linda Chase, who presided over Monday’s meeting, that the board chairman directs the agenda with Castonguay.

Charter supporter John Salisbury, who is a past executive director of Maine Municipal Association, handed out a fact-finding document to selectmen that requests they place the question on the November ballot.

“Local control is a mirage,” he said. “State Legislature determines what options municipal government uses for its structure and procedures,” he wrote. “Having the voting citizens of the municipality control the basic government packaged in a charter avoids the reference to the state Title 30 statutes, which are not readily accessible or understandable to most citizens,” he wrote.

“It’s simple. Will selectmen let townspeople have a say to develop a charter for the town?” Salisbury asked.

Former Selectman Stephen Hathorne told selectmen, “We thought it would be on the agenda and we want you to be with us. Otherwise, we will go to petition.”

In 2017, voters approved an ordinance limiting selectmen to three consecutive terms, which would have made Chase ineligible for another term in June 2018.

In May 2018, the board voted 3-2 to dissolve the ordinance, based on a Maine Municipal Association opinion that it was invalid because the town didn’t have a charter.

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