Here in Livermore Falls, we are embarking on one of the oldest debates in our nation. What is the scope of government, and how should we pay for it?

Obviously on a local government scale, our scope is more limited than on a national scale.  There are services the town provides that are dictated by law, and there are services the citizens have decided are valuable to them as a community.

As an administrator, it is my duty to ensure the people are paying the best price to provide the best service.

As citizens, it is the duty of the residents to tell the local government which services are valued. It is important to distinguish that value is not always measured with dollar signs, but a combination of dollars and quality.

The next part of the debate is the most interesting.  How do we pay for the services we value?  The answer, which may send  shivers down your back, is taxes. How do we ensure people pay their equal share of taxes, in proportion to services available? 

If you have an answer to that, get into national politics, because no one has had an answer to that, yet. The phrase tax reform refers to politicians experimenting with taxes, because they know the system is not completely fair.

What does this all mean to Livermore Falls? 

The town’s tax base is weaker than many others. Where other towns have industry, shoreland properties, or valuable assets, Livermore Falls has blue-collar workers and a paper mill we relied on running out the back door. The Otis Mill represents 20 percent of the value of Livermore Falls. 

When the taxable assets of the mill leave our town, where will the revenue they once supplied come from?  The rest of the town will then be responsible to absorb that revenue loss.

What I think gets lost in discussion of the mill closing is that it’s not the only factor. The school consolidation penalty imposed by the state has increased our school budget. State revenue sharing will be reduced 20 percent. Why would the state impose restrictions like these on our town now? 

It’s simple: The governor has no idea what kind of obstacles he’s created for the little town. As long as the state budget is balanced, it doesn’t matter what happens to local governments. The obstacles created when the town needs to operate but our state counterparts are on a shutdown day is only obvious to the small local governments. 

Also lost is the impact of the impending excise tax referendum. If this passes by vote of the citizens, people will pay less in excise taxes, but landowners will absorb all of that lost revenue through higher property taxes.

Anyone with opinions on what services the town values, and ones the town could perform cheaper, is needed.
There is a special town meeting on Sept. 8, where voters will decide
whether to retain the transfer station and the town dispatch or use
other services. Any questions or input, please attend or come to the town office on Main Street or call 897-3321.

What do the people of Livermore Falls have as tools to navigate these roadblocks to running a successful local government with valued services? We get to design our government and its services. We get to make our local government work hard on the priorities that we value in our town.

We must design a government structure that lives within our present and future means, and not one that relies on ancient industries of the past.

James D. Chaousis is the town manager in Livermore Falls. E-mail: [email protected]

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