A tax reform measure that competes with the MMA proposal would cause confusion.

The Taxation Committee is back to work on so-called “tax reform.” This has the majority of communities in the state wondering what is on the horizon for them.

I have a fear that what is believed to be in the municipalities’ best interest is not. But, in fact, is only being considered because of big business.

We have heard the phrase “Maine, the Way Life Should Be” for some time now. In fact, if this regionalization package is implemented, Maine will never be the way it was.

We Mainers pride ourselves on our individuality and this carries over to our municipalities as well. We share a lot of services while retaining our identity. We don’t want to sacrifice our home rule, our town meetings and our right to have someone locally accessible just to perhaps save a very small amount of money.

It has not been proven to us yet that regionalization will mean a reduction in costs.

We work together on solid waste, ambulance services and mutual aid with fire and police, but still maintain our own identities. For many of us in smaller towns it is a way of life to turn to our neighbors and collaborate on projects and purchases. Many towns will not sacrifice this to take a chance on the future savings.

Elimination of the personal property tax on machinery and equipment is going to be devastating. I was told by the governor’s office that we would be made whole. The figures they put forth show us as whole. However, here on the local level where we deal with reality instead of proposals, we look forward to a shrinking tax base with a promise of 50 percent reimbursement that will shrink.

Eventually, as this machinery and equipment is replaced or taken off the tax rolls due to age and depreciation, the taxes will be gone and not replaced when new equipment is installed. All we have to do is look at the state’s record on reimbursement to communities to know that it is probable that the reimbursement will shrink or that we will have a continual fight to get it. After all, in one of the proposals the state would determine the value of the property that we are getting reimbursed for.

It is odd that when they worked on this tax reform package that no municipal officials were included in the mix to present our side of the picture.

The overriding question has to be, in a time of revenue shortfalls all over the state, does it make sense to eliminate another source of revenue that is supposed to be reimbursed from state funds?

I don’t doubt that businesses need assistance. We want big business to stay and flourish. They are our good neighbors, but I don’t want the tax shifted so that homeowners and small businesses cannot afford to continue to exist in Jay and surrounding areas.

The shift of county tax to the small communities and the shift of school subsidies will devastate the small communities as much as the elimination of the personal property to the industrial communities.

Oftentimes when proposals such as this one have time to be digested and looked at after a period of study, things become clear. We could have more opportunity to create balance and equity for all.

When I corresponded with the representative from my hometown of Wilton I was told that he went there to work on tax relief, which is admirable and I support that. But tax relief for who?

Certainly not for the people who are looking at a decrease in their exemptions. Not for the small Mom and Pop businesses, and not for the towns that will have to pass on this shift to the taxpayers as well as deal with less revenue from the state.

This present tax reform proposal is a lose-lose situation.

I would urge the Legislature to look at the mandate the voters demonstrated by turning in over 100,000 signatures in favor of the Maine Municipal Association proposal. It is almost insulting to all of us who support that proposal that the governor and Legislature will not work to find a way to fund the schools as promised in the past (another unkept promise).

A competing measure will cause confusion. Lawmakers must listen to the people and slow down and work with us to find the answers for the good of the state of Maine.

Ruth Marden is town manager of Jay.

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