Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lisbon's High Property Taxes

I think by now almost everyone in Lisbon is aware we have a big tax problem. We are one of the highest taxed towns in Maine and the Country.(1) We have been struggling with this problem for years and are either unable or unwilling to do the work necessary to solve the problem. We are at the point where we either voluntarily fix this problem or our problem will snowball into something uncontrollable that will consume us all.

What has caused our tax problem:

1. We have a Public Safety Department that is out of control.

2. We had Councilors that were unwilling to make the tough decisions that needed to be made in order to keep our taxes at a reasonable mil rate.

3. We have allowed accounting system manipulation that has made it easier to hide the true cost of Municipal Departments thus making it more difficult to find the excessive spending that needed to be cut. ----I believe this was an intentional act to deceive.

4. We have bought into the false idea that bigger is always better. Sometimes bigger is just more expensive.

5. We keep searching for new business as if that will solve all our problems. Well we have been chasing that elusive butterfly for decades now and haven't caught it. And even if we do attract a large business many experts in the field say businesses seldom bring in enough tax revenue to justify the money spent on the infrastructure needed to support the business. 

Think outside the box -- what we have been doing isn't working.

---Have you ever noticed small towns have lower taxes and a better standard of living than large city's with many businesses. Do we want to become another Lewiston or Portland with all the accompanying problems?

6. We have a PD Dispatch Center that is costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars to do what? -----To slow down dispatch times and make Lisbon residents wait for service. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to understand it takes longer to do something when the instructions are passed down through another layer of dispatchers.

Possible solutions:

1. Immediate hiring freeze on all departments. Any exceptions to this should be voted on by the entire Council.

2. Eliminate the Dispatch Center ------ Turn this function back to the County level where it can be done more efficiently.

3. Eliminate 3-4 Pd staff and/or support staff. We have a larger Police Department than many towns twice our size. Don't let them tell you we only have 15 or 16 officers. The truth is, if you read the latest annual salary report , there are 31 officers and support staff for the PD.

4. Eliminate any department head that costs the town more than they make for the town. I can think of at least a $150,000 dollar savings here.

5. Institute an employee program that will give any town employee half of the savings (for the first year) from any used suggestion he/she may have that cuts waste/spending.

6. Give the taxpayers a Department by Department vote on the municipal side of the budget. This will help take pressure off the Councilors.

7. Follow through on Councilor Pesce's suggestion of comparing our staffing with other towns of equal size. This will show us where we have excessive personnel.

The time of sitting back and letting someone else solve the problem is long gone. We have this problem because a lot of good people remained silent and let the few spend our money on their pet projects. Well there's no more money to be spent.

We all need to take this crisis seriously and do our best to aid in its solution.

Call your Councilors and let them know your suggestions and give them your support.

Joe Hill