Lincoln County News | Newcastle, ME
Tuesday, July 28, 2015 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 140 Issue 30

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home : letters : letters to the editor July 28, 2015

10/23/2013 2:00:00 PM
Monitor And Question Town Spending

To the Editor:

I read your article on the comprehensive plan with great interest. ("Damariscotta invites feedback on comprehensive plan," LCN, 10/10/2013, Page 5) I have attended many meetings of the comprehensive planning committee and I am pleased to see that income disparity as related to housing costs was addressed.

However, there is more to the cost of owning a home than just the purchase price. It also includes the cost of maintenance, real estate taxes and utilities.

I moved to Damariscotta a few years ago and I reviewed my tax records for each year since 2009.

Comparing the change in mil rate for each category: town, school and county, I discovered that the change in mil rate due to town spending increased by 24 percent since 2009. In comparison, since 2009, the schools portion went up only 13.15 percent and the county's 11.5 percent.

In dollar terms, since 2009, the town took in an additional $113, the schools $97 and the county $10 for a total increase of $220 for every $100,000 of assessed valuation. Two percent annual inflation would give us an increase of 11.4 percent. The county is consistent, the schools are close in spite of the state cutbacks, but the town?

If you go to the New England Public Policy Discussion Center Discussion Paper 09-2 (http://www.bostonfed.org/economic/neppc/briefs/2009/pb092.htm), you will learn that Maine has one of the highest income tax rates in the nation (sixth). This is coupled with the fact that the highest rate is imposed on taxable incomes above $20,150.

In contrast, California, which has the highest rate (about 10.2 percent), only imposes it on taxable income above $1,000,000 and New Jersey, which is next highest after Maine at 9 percent, imposes its highest rate only on taxable income over $500,000.

From this same document we learn Maine has one of the highest property taxes as a percentage of state and local taxes (approximately 38 percent). So having one of the highest income tax rates coupled with having the highest property tax as a percentage of income, leaves homeowners and renters (landlords pass on their costs) with very little to spend if one is trying to keep one's property or pay one's rent.

Damariscotta has higher real estate taxes than other municipalities of the state, even in Lincoln County. As I read in the article, Damariscotta's median income is approximately 14 percent less than the rest of Lincoln County. We, therefore, have the highest percentage of our income going to real estate taxes in a town where many people don't have much money to start with.

I conclude from the above facts that there are many people in town who don't see the suffering that high taxes cause the less financially secure.

I also conclude there are many people in town who don't realize even those who are financially stable, are forced to curtail some spending because their salaries, their social security, pensions (if they are lucky enough to have one) or accumulated bank interest has not increased 24 percent since 2009. These people have had to cut spending and, therefore, this has affected the income of stores in town.

Then there is a third group. They are on the edge. Unless their income goes up or at least remains stable relative to expenses, they will go over the edge.

Please monitor and question town spending as to needs and wants so that we don't drive our neighbors to have liens put on their property or to force them to sell. Be sensitive to this and monitor the town and hold our elected officials accountable.

I would like to thank the Great Salt Bay students, faculty, parents and other supporters for the great new playground that was built for the children and not at taxpayer expense. I would like to thank the Methodist Church Pet Food Pantry for helping the financially fragile to care for their non-human companions as well as the Food Bank at the Congregational Church in caring for people.

These people are among the very many that make me love Damariscotta.

Joyce A. Polyniak
Damariscotta




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