MECHANIC FALLS — The Town Council did not have the authority to extend the payment date for property taxes by 60 days, which nullifies the action it took at Tuesday’s meeting, the town manager said.

Zakk Maher informed council members that their action violates state law.

“This was a very sympathetic gesture offered by the council,” Maher said. “Unfortunately, this type of change is not something they, nor the town administration can provide as there is currently no authority for municipalities to move the date taxes are due and payable after those taxes have been committed, even in emergency circumstances such as this.”

With some of the town’s residents out of work due to the state’s mandatory stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic, the Town Council unanimously adopted a proposal that moved the due date for the second half of property tax payments from May 15 to July 15 with no interest or penalty.

Maher said the town is “still required to send out 30-day notices by June 15. If no payments are received by July 15,  properties would automatically have a lien filed.”

Some area towns have agreed to waive interest, Maher said, which is something Mechanic Falls might do. Such a plan will likely be introduced at the scheduled May meeting.

“This was a well-intentioned action by the council, but was done without consultation with town administration or legal counsel to see if it was feasible, or if there would be alternative options that we could use to deliver comparable relief to our residents,” Maher said.  

“We are working on a presentation that would look more like an interest and penalty waiver,” he added.

Residents who are having financial difficulties should contact the Town Office.

“As a General Assistance provider, we serve as the last line of defense to protect our residents from financial hardships caused by loss of employment or housing insecurity,” Maher said.

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