Recently, a local business owner stopped me to say, “Don’t raise my taxes." When I reminded him that his city taxes represented 31 cents on his tax dollar, he advised me he had kids in school, so he wasn’t concerned about those taxes. When I asked him what he was doing to fight the governor's proposal to raise his property taxes, he seemed to have no idea as to what I was talking about.

Every Belfast resident, businessperson, property owner and tenant should be very concerned about what the Governor has proposed to do to your property taxes and rents in this next State budget.

First, he proposes to eliminate the Circuit Breaker Program that helps the poorest of taxpayers and renters to get some partial repayment of property tax or rent. If this program stops, then those people will lose between $270 and $500 each. If you make $16,000 a year and pay more than half of your net income for rent or property tax, this proposal will be a big loss to you.

Second, the governor proposes to completely take away our municipal revenue-sharing, which has been state law for more than 35 years. It’s five percent of sales and income taxes. This is your money. It partially helps to pay for the unfunded 136 state mandates for services your city must deliver every day. For the last four years the state has been just taking more of it from you. They have also been taking away your property tax revenue on business equipment. Look at these numbers:

Belfast Property            State Legally obligated               City legally entitled

Tax rates per                Revenue Sharing                         Business Property tax

Thousand of value       *Cut by State 4 straight yrs          Cut by the State

2007   19.3                        $776,000                               100% no loss tax revenue

2008   19.4                        $949,408                               100% no loss tax revenue

2009   18.6                        $791,984                                 90%  lost tax revenue -$9,122

2010   18.1                        $650,771*                                80%  lost tax revenue-$21,290

2011   18.1                        $559,981*                                70%  lost tax revenue-$40,290

2012   18.1                        $532,502*                                60%  lost tax revenue -$75,656

2013   19.8                        $481,500*                                50%  lost tax revenue-est $88,000

If the governor’s budget proposal passes, you will also lose more school funding, $94,566, and you will have to pay 50 percent of the teachers' pensions, $450,720.

Between city and school, your governor proposes to shift $1,427,578 to your property tax bill. That will take you minimally from $19.8 mils per thousand to 21.8 mils per thousand. On a $100,000 property, that is an extra $200 in property taxes. On a business that has a million-dollar facility, your property taxes on this proposal alone will increase by $2,000.

Finally, unless you are over 65, the governor proposes to also take away your homestead exemption. So if you are under 65 you will now automatically pay $196 more per year in property taxes.

Let’s add this up for any homeowner under 65. What’s their anticipated impact?

Assessed            Circuit              2Mil                    Homestead                 Total lost

House                  Breaker            Increase            Ex. Loss

Value                    Loss                 Prop Tax            if under 65

$100,000            $300                  $200                      $196                               $696

$200,000            ?                        $400                       $196                               $596

$300,000            ?                        $600                       $196                               $796

The governor and his supporters say they have an $800,000,000 budget hole. They do not emphasize that half of this hole was created by them when they passed the recent tax cut for upper incomes. The governor and his supporters say we should just cut at the local level.

Cutting budgets is always a good idea. Anyone can see Belfast’s city budget on our website, along with my concerns as to what we might have to do if the governor’s proposal passes. If you have a suggestion on how we can save money anywhere, send it in to my office and we will forward your idea on to the City Council for consideration. Take a look above at how we cut your taxes in the past when the revenues were being taken away.

If you look at our budgets, I think you will find that any significant cuts at this point will cut something important to someone else. Let’s have that discussion.

Meanwhile, this is the time to be calling Sen. Mike Thibodeau (223-5177) and Rep. Erin Herbig (542-7654) to tell them how you feel about the governor's proposals. If you remain unaware and quiet now, I assure you that you will, indeed, be paying later. Waldo County towns met with these representatives, I went and testified against these proposals in Augusta and Bangor, and the City Council sent a resolution to the state opposing these proposals and recommended that the state either cut its own budget or finance its needs through one of the many revenue streams that are available to it — that are not available to us, such as income, sales tax, lodging and food tax etc.

It’s your money. We hope you will work to keep it.

Thanks for listening.