NEW GLOUCESTER – Selectmen on Monday agreed unanimously to write off $17,297 in unpaid personal property taxes from 1998 to 2011.

The taxes include business establishments that never started, bankrupt businesses and those whose business establishments closed or moved out of town. One includes a person who died and another person is in jail.

The town’s contracted assessing agent, Michael O’Donnell, said often the town’s records report miscellaneous items rather than a specific listing of items being taxed, making it more difficult to collect the taxes.

Town Manager Sumner Field III told the board in a memo that, “My recommendation is to abate these noncollectable taxes due to the reason listed to clear the accounting records and reflect a more realistic amount due to the town.

“Going forward, I recommend that the Assessors approve a “floor” amount below which the Assessor’s Agent will not commit taxes on personal property,” he said. He recommended a minimum value for business assets to be assessed and committed be set at $4,000.

O’Donnell said the personal property tax list will require a workshop with selectmen in the future to discuss other personal property taxpayers in arrears. No action was taken.

In other business, selectmen agreed to fund $45,000 from Pineland’s Tax Increment Financing funds to the New Gloucester Water District.

Lawrence Zuckerman, chairman of the three-member water district trustees, said in a letter to the board that the volunteer trustees are in the precarious position of applying for loans and grants and building a water system without insurance. Additional seed funding from the town will address this for fiscal year 2013.

The funds are earmarked for operations at $5,000; insurance at $5,000; legal work at $5,000; consulting fees at $10,000; fundraising efforts at $10,000; and contingency funds of $10,000.

Until the water system is built and generating income, the district has no source of income to undertake the work for the new water system, which is projected to cost $3 million.

A total of $709,689 has been secured from the Community Development Block Grant program and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for the project. Working with USDA Rural Development Utilities program, the New Gloucester Water District submitted a $2.3 million loan and grant application to Rural Development.

“We anticipate the grant portion of the award to range between 45 and 60 percent, leaving a project funding gap between $1,265,000 and $920,000,” Zuckerman said. That’s the loan portion of the Rural Development award, he said.

To help reduce the gap, the district must undertake additional fundraising. If successful, they will reduce the amount of funding that the district ultimately seeks from the town to construct the water system.

“Clean, safe drinking water is fundamental to the health and economic prosperity of our community,” Zuckerman said.

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