Friday, January 17, 2014

LT Ben Dover crawls out of his cave to address the coming ‘surprise’ and ‘new directions…’

                               

It’s been some time since we’ve heard from LT Dover, Benjamin, a young member of our staff who we casually refer to as LT Ben Dover.  We suspected that Dover had put on his cap and settled down for a long winter’s nap.  Heaven knows Side’s founder is prone to go off on long ‘naps,’ pretty much any time of year.

Recent news has made it clear that Ben needed to get back to his beat.  So we threw a pile of donuts in front of his cave in hopes of ending his hibernation, and it has.  He may still be a bit groggy and grouchy, so be gentle with him, please.  He was, though, lucid enough when we saw him to remind us that one of the favored warnings from the military is ‘stand by for incoming.’

Which seems entirely apropos our current circumstances.  Keep the thought in mind when you read his latest report:

The Coming Property Tax Surprise

Our editor sometimes likes to channel Gomer Pyle with a ‘well, suhprazz, suhprazz!’ comment.  And it looks like this is such a moment.

Cast your eyes upon this article and you’ll have plenty of time to ‘prepare’ yourself for what is about to come our way.  The first thing that should get your body hair standing on end is this:

The council is also expected to hold another workshop by March to discuss the possibility of a new property revaluation, which hasn't happened since 2000 and would attempt to bring equity to assessed values of different properties in town.

There are certain things you can count on when it comes time for revaluation.  First, no rationale against doing so has a chance, because it will always come down to ‘fairness’ and ‘we simply have no choice.’  Second, it will allow those responsible to brag about how they’ve lowered the tax rate while raising your tax bill. 

Third, it will ALWAYS, ALWAYS end up in a windfall in tax revenues for local government.  The last time we had a revaluation, property tax revenue increased by 9.2% in one year.  Property tax revenue that year was $23 million compared to $21 million the year before; this year it’s $35.6 million. 

Fourth, it will confuse the begeegus out of the vast majority of the population, leaving them scratching their heads as they try to reconcile their bigger tax bill with council bragging about ‘lowering the tax rate.’

Truth be known, the tax rate has been climbing rather steeply in recent years, and the thinking is probably that it’s time to make it look better so as to quell any popular uprising.  According to records in the Side office, it’s gone from $22.87 to $26.54 in just three years; an increase of 16%.  And it’s set to climb ever higher with what you’ll read here, and what’s ‘incoming,’ so to speak.

You know, now that Sally Sellitt is on the Town Council, you can expect her to be advising on how to make moving to Brunswick even more ‘attractive’ than it already is.  We already have ‘the best schools,’ but our tax rate is starting to look dreadfully high compared to surrounding towns of lower stature, and we mustn’t have that, must we.

No two houses are the same, so their two tax bills cannot be used as a measure of one town’s taxes vs. another towns.  The only ‘fair way’ to do it, authorities and salespeople will tell you, is to compare ‘mil rates.’  So here’s a chance to make a substantial reduction in the mil rate and take Brunswick down several notches in regional rankings.  All while increasing tax revenue at the same time.

    

If you’re in government and/or real-estate sales, this is called a ‘win-win’ proposition.  If you’re not, this is what we call a ‘lose-lose’ proposition.  And it’s even more attractive as a stratagem when you see intense pressure to increase taxes lying just ahead.  As the linked article clearly explains.

So let’s summarize the increases we’re looking at on the moment.  The article says this:

Councilors met for their annual day-long retreat on Saturday, Jan. 11, to discuss the 2014 agenda along with next year's budget, which is tentatively expected to cause a property tax increase.

This, simply put, is abuse of the word ‘tentatively,’ and an insult to informed town residents and readers.  You’ll quickly see that a 6% tax increase is already in the cards, and we are in the ramping phase of things.  Or, if you prefer, gently and progressively disclosing the assault to follow.

Consider this: the article does not mention anything about School Department demands, and you can be sure with their usual proclivities, the need for two new schools, adding universal pre-school, etc, etc, etc, that they will be coming in with both hands and numerous hats out.  Then there’s the possibility of further increases in the McClellan transition, which we’ll be addressing soon in a separate post.

We can easily see a 10% or higher property tax increase looming for the coming year, with similar increases in the several years following.  The important thing for you to keep in mind is not allowing yourself to be distracted by discussions of the mil-rate, which in all likelihood will be lowered.

The only things that matter are total expenditures, property tax revenue, and your individual property tax bill.  And if you can count on anything in this life and this perfect little richest town in America, you can rely on all three increasing, and by goodly, non-trivial amounts.

As to those ‘new directions’ we’ve been hearing about?  It looks to us like in at least one sense, the new direction will be the same old direction, but at a higher rate of speed.  So you might want to get your signs ready for the upcoming budget hearings:

          

Yeah, we know, you’ve seen these visuals before.  Well, we’ve seen the same town behavior before as well, so what’s your beef? 

You got better?  Fine; send them along.

1 comment:

  1. Two major expenditures enter this equation over which the Town Council has full control. One is the maintenance of town buildings, particularly schools and the second is teacher salaries and benefits.

    I've looked at school budgets now for 13 years and never have I seen a line item for maintenance. As for the teachers we are in for a big surprise when LePage gets his way and cuts back on state funds for local schools that the Constitution of Maine does not allow in the first place and then there is the annual increases in salaries that occur every year.

    The council can easily provide for both by changing the assessment formula which currently stands at 62% per dollar of evaluation and increase it. This can raise funds without spending anything for a reevaluation.

    I suggest the alternative to all of this is for the Town Council to start printing Brunswick Bucks and start paying the town's purchases and salaries in whatever denomination they please and leave the rest of us alone.

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