AUBURN – Leaders of a local planning group have let their first property tax deadline slip while they decide whether to pay the taxes or do something else.

Bob Thompson, executive director of the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, said his board is still discussing whether to pay the Auburn taxes or try to get the city’s decision overturned.

“We are still trying to see what our options are,” Thompson said.

Thompson said he expects a decision from the board in the next couple of weeks.

The group’s first tax payment to the city was due on Sept. 15. Auburn Tax Collector Diane Freve said she has not received a tax payment from the organization or talked with any AVCOG representatives about the bill.

Freve said she mailed the $25,357.88 tax bill along with all the other city tax bills on July 15. AVCOG’s first payment of $7,345 in real property taxes was due on July 21. The first half of the real estate tax bill, $9,006.44, was due Sept. 15. The second half is due next spring.

Freve said there is no penalty for late payments. She plans on sending out a polite reminder to late taxpayers in October.

“It just asks them if they’ve forgotten that taxes were due,” Freve said. “Then, nothing really happens until April 1 of next year. That’s when we send out the tax lien notices.”

AVCOG’s offices are housed in a 9,397-square-foot building at 125 Manley Road in Auburn. The organization provides economic development, and environmental and transportation planning services for its members, dozens of municipalities in western Maine. The 43 cities and three counties pay assessments to support the organization.

This is the first year Auburn has sent the organization a tax bill. The city has assessed taxes on the property since 1996 but always forgave the tax bill.

Councilor Bob Mennealy began questioning that policy in June, citing Maine law. According to Maine Revised Statutes 30-A, Section 2304: “Regional councils … are tax-exempt institutions which are exempt only from income and sales taxes.” The statutes don’t exempt those organizations from paying property taxes.

City Manager Pat Finnigan agreed to levy the taxes in August, citing recent legal opinions that agreed with Mennealy.

In 2003, Auburn paid $19,445 to AVCOG, the second highest assessment of member cities. Lewiston, the largest city in the group’s membership area, paid $25,000.