MEXICO — Residents voted 289-193 Tuesday to approve a proposed tax ordinance that would cap the town’s operating cost at $2.73 million.

The ordinance, drafted by resident Albert Aniel and a lawyer who used to work for the Maine Municipal Association, would go into effect during the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Aniel said during an April 23 selectmen meeting that he wanted the ordinance to take effect immediately, if it was voted through.

But at a later meeting, Town Manager John Madigan shared a letter from the town’s lawyer stating that the ordinance could not go into effect until the following year.

“I’m sure it is far too late to have this ordinance be passed in effect for the 2013-14 fiscal year,” the lawyer wrote in an email to selectmen. “Accordingly, I believe this proposed ordinance, as amended, can only be applied to the 2014-15 fiscal year.”

Aniel said he first drafted the ordinance as a response to the tax increases the town has experienced the past few years.

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“The Maine Revenue Services says Mexico has the highest mill rate in the entire state for the last four years,” Aniel said, “and a lot of people have seen their property taxes go up 50 percent in the last three years. Realtors will tell you that some properties are 30 percent overvalued. There are over $300,000 in unpaid taxes.”

He added, “I honestly believe that our high property taxes are an economic disincentive for our area. I don’t think it’s going to encourage people to come here when they face the highest mill rate in the state, or encourage enterprises and businesses to move here. Why should they?”

At a May 14 selectmen meeting, Madigan said he believed if people agreed to vote the ordinance through it would “kill the town.”

“What happens if there’s an emergency?” Madigan asked Aniel. “You’re going to ask us to live within an arbitrary number.”

Aniel said this is “not a 50 percent or 60 percent decrease we’re asking for. It’s a 10 percent decrease, and I think it’s manageable if we all work together.”

In addition to approving Aniel’s tax ordinance, voters rejected a majority of the town’s proposed budget items during Tuesday’s election. The proposed municipal budget for 2013-14 was $2.99 million, which was $13,767 more than the current year.

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