NORWAY – Town Manager David Holt’s job does not exist as part of a $3.9 million budget he’s projecting if the Palesky tax cap passes.

It’s a worst-case scenario, he said Tuesday, but if the Palesky tax cap is approved by voters Nov. 2, Norway next year could find itself $2 million short of its current $5.9 million budget.

“These are my opinions,” Holt said while speaking of the tax cap. “I think that the Palesky plan is too much.”

Under Holt’s suggested budget, town hall staff would be whittled to three employees and a code enforcement officer, and all police services could be turned over to the county and state. A $521,000 highway budget would be cut to $298,000, the department’s crew would be let go and all projects would go out to bid. There would be no pay for firemen and the library would be closed.

“A lot of the Palesky folks that I’ve spoken with want to teach the bastards a lesson,” Holt said. “In some cases, unfortunately, the bastards they’re teaching a lesson to are themselves.”

The Palesky measure is intended to cap property taxes at $10 per $1,000 of assessment, based on values in 1996-97. It would mean property taxes would be 1 percent of assessed value. Even cap supporters Carol Palesky and Phil Harriman on Tuesday admitted the rollback in property valuations to 1996 levels is not expected to pass muster with state lawmakers.

However, Palesky said in a phone interview, “The meat of (the tax cap) is it’s 1 percent plus every taxpayer’s share of the town’s existing debt.” Property taxes may still be capped at a 1 percent rate based on current property valuations, she said.

Palesky said municipalities and government officials have been using scare tactics to dissuade voters from supporting the tax cap.

“They’re choosing things that the people need – police, fire, rescue, teachers,” she said. There are other places to trim the budget, Palesky suggested. One place is town hall.

In speaking at 32 meetings, she said, not one town had suggested cutting the administrative staff in order to save money.

Harriman said towns also should look at turning unused property back over to the private sector to generate revenue.

“This is the only tool that Maine citizens have that we can use without Legislature to tell them that we have to change our behavior,” he said.

Schools will be getting more money this year because of a referendum passed by voters in June, Harriman noted. Question 1 called for the state to take responsibility for a full 55 percent of all education spending, up from its current level of 45 percent.

Mark Eastman, superintendent of SAD 17, has been quoted as saying district schools may share in budget cuts if the Palesky tax cap passes, Holt said.

However, he said, “They would only be making cuts if they chose to at the end of the day. The town would be making cuts because they have to.”

With no legislation assuring that the school cuts would benefit local governments, there’s no counting on that money to offset the tax cap, Holt said.


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