Editor’s note: The Journal ran letters from four of the six candidates for City Council seats in the Oct. 20 edition, with a note that all six candidates had been invited to submit letters. We later realized we had inadvertently failed to contact Ward 1 candidate Roger Pickering; as such, he submitted a letter this week and we are including it here. Additionally, the two Ward 2 candidates — Rita Horsey and Roger Lee — each saw things in their opponent’s letter that they wished to rebut. Their respective rebuttals are included here, as well.

Pickering makes his pitch to voters

My name is Roger S. Pickering and I am running for City Council in Ward 1 to give voters a choice, as I feel no one should run unopposed.

I’ve lived in Belfast since 1954, except for military service and two and a half years in the Bangor area. I have been a blue-collar worker most of my adult life and now I am semi-retired. I have served on the Belfast Planning Board for the past 14 years, the last few as chairman.

My thoughts about the surplus funds are: [they should be] used for emergency situations, such as equipment or vehicle replacement; making emergency road or other infrastructure repairs. Major purchases, such as real estate, should go to a public hearing before money is spent.

I think that no public funds should be used initially for an event center, especially during the current recession. The city should do what it can to help businesses to move to Belfast. Businesses already located here should be helped to expand if needed. We need to give the economic developer at least 12 to 18 months to make a difference. Nothing happens overnight.

I will do my best to represent all of the residents of Belfast and would appreciate your vote Nov. 2.

Roger Pickering

Belfast

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Horsey rebuts Lee’s letter

This letter is in response to a letter written by my opponent, City Councilor Roger Lee, which was published in the Oct. 20 edition of The Republican Journal.

My opponent speculated that I would have opposed hiring an economic development director. Because I am a strong supporter of business growth and jobs, I think the position of economic development director could be good, but that person needs to encourage the growth of local businesses. Currently, city officials seem mainly interested in going after government money — grants. Private businesses bring sustainable jobs. Grants are temporary, and they don’t improve the local economy.

My opponent says there is a lot more to being a councilor than just lowering taxes, and that city government needs to make “investments that will improve prospects for new jobs.” I think lowering taxes is the place to start. With lower taxes, most Belfast residents would put those dollars back into the economy. That would promote local businesses and increase jobs. When this is accomplished, then we can proceed with all the niceties.

Rita Horsey

City Council candidate

Belfast

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Lee rebuts Horsey’s letter

I want to address an assertion that my opponent, Rita Horsey, made in her letter to the editor in last week’s paper. What she wrote was:

Property in Ellsworth is taxed at the rate of $13.35/$1,000 property evaluation. The Camden tax rate is $13.21/$1,000. Rockport is $11.38. Belfast is $18.10. Although there are other towns with a tax rate similar to Belfast’s, looking at these lower rates means to me it is possible to lower the Belfast tax rate.

Her statements show a fundamental misunderstanding of property tax rates, something I found surprising, given the emphasis she is giving to taxes in her campaign. The property tax rate depends on both the amount of taxes collected and on the value of the property assessed (indeed, it is computed by dividing the taxes to be collected by the total valuation of property).

Thus, towns with higher-priced housing (e.g., Camden and Rockport’s housing is valued about 60-70 percent higher than Belfast’s) will have lower property tax rates, simply because of this difference in housing prices. And towns that assess their housing at values closer to actual selling prices (Camden, 91 percent; Rockport, 100 percent; Ellsworth, 100 percent) will also have tax rates lower than towns with lower assessment percentages (Belfast is at 82 percent; percentages are Maine Revenue’s latest published figures).

My opponent’s statements also ignore that the City Council only has control over a small fraction of the total tax rate. Municipal spending accounts for only $5.60 of the $18.10 [collected on every $1,000 of property valuation]; the schools and county account for the remaining $12.50.

I believe an accurate comparison of municipal taxes in Belfast to municipal taxes in these three other towns would show that Belfast has, in fact, much lower taxation. A reasonably good metric for making that comparison is municipal taxation per capita (total municipal taxation divided by population). Using this metric, Belfast ($560/person) looks considerably better than the other three. Camden is $752/person. Rockport is $721. Ellsworth is $903. An even better metric would be the property tax on the house with an average assessment, but I could not find such data.

But even though we are doing pretty well with city taxes, I am not suggesting we sit on our laurels. We need to continue to look for ways to lower taxes. But we must also not ignore the need to make smart investments in our future.

Roger Lee

Ward 2 City Councilor

Belfast