PRESENT: Chairman Champaco, Councilor Friedman, Councilor King, Councilor Hathaway and Councilor Perkins; Manager W. Reed; Deputy Clerk K. Humphrey; Office Administrator J. Reed, CEO A. Thomas, Police Chief M. Leonard, Fire Chief G. Martin, Parks & Recreation Director L. Janicki, Members of the Public George Topliff, Helen Cheney and Donald McKay.
ITEM 1. The September 18, 2006 Veazie Town Council was called to order at 07:00PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of the Minutes
Motion By: Councilor Friedman—to accept the August 21, 2006 meeting minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor King, Voted 4-0-1 in favor. Councilor Hathaway abstained due to his absence from the meeting.
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda
A plaque was presented to former Councilor Helen Cheney for her service on the Town Council. Chairman Champaco stated that Helen Cheney has given her time, talent and energy to the Town Council for seven years and it was with great honor and pleasure for her to present her with the plaque.
ITEM 4a. Assessor’s Report
Assessor Allan Thomas stated that this year he had more complaints then usual on taxes and he blamed a lot of it on the economy, ie. price of gas, oil, groceries and taxes.
He provided the Councilors with a series of handouts. One showed the comparative price per square foot of living area for most of the houses built in Veazie during the last twenty years. The second handout was a trending analysis by city showing residential value trends for Portland, Lewiston, Auburn and Bangor which displayed that sales prices for houses increased by about 1% per month for the last year. The third handout was a trending analysis by region of the country that shows that sales prices for houses in the New England region increased about 1% for the entire year. Assessor Allan Thomas outlined that with information that conflicts this badly it is difficult to set accurate values.
Manager Reed stated that included in the Councilors’ packet was a copy of the assessment review conducted by the State of Maine. Also included was a copy of a letter from Maine Municipal Association stating that insurable value of the school has increased. Manager Reed explained that the price of construction materials has gone up considerably and the new value in the letter is how much it would cost to rebuild the school today.
Manager Reed also included a few letters to give the Councilors a sampling of what individuals concerns are on taxes.
Councilor Hathaway outlined that he has received a few calls regarding taxes. He proposed sending homeowners a postcard with the homeowner’s current value as well as the proposed new value at least thirty days prior to the commitment of taxes. This would allow them to discuss the increase with Assessor Allan Thomas before getting their tax bill as well as giving them more time to budget for the increase.
Councilor Hathaway also proposed giving homeowners a minimum of sixty days to pay their tax bill from the date of bulk mailing. He outlined that a lot of residents with mortgages have the lender escrow monies to cover their tax cost. But by not letting the homeowner know of a change in value, not knowing the mill rate, and requiring payment in less than thirty days makes for a considerable amount of frustration and anger towards local government. Councilor Hathaway stated that he would like for the taxpayers to be more informed and better able to manage their finances.
Councilor Hathaway further stated that he would like the Town to work with its independent auditor to transition to a system that allows taxes to be paid approximately one month later than they currently are.
Assessor Allan Thomas outlined that the due date is set at Town Meeting. He also outlined that taxpayers had almost sixty days to pay this year’s taxes. Had their not been a problem with Veazie’s revenue sharing amount taxpayers would have had at least sixty days.
There was discussion on values and neighborhoods. Assessor Allan Thomas explained that when there are sales in neighborhoods it provides him with the information to determine whether the neighborhood is valued right.
Chairman Champaco pointed out that values in the Town need to be within a certain percentage otherwise there are ramifications such as losing the homestead exemption. Assessor Allan Thomas stated that it can also raise the county tax and decrease school funding.
Chairman Champaco asked what factors could be sped up or allow for the assessments to be made available sooner. Manager Reed stated that the Assessor allows try to allow for sixty days and this year residents would have had sixty days if the Town had not run into the problem with the revenue sharing. He added that in Maine municipalities are not required by law to send out tax bills. He explained that once the Assessor commits taxes they are committed and truly due. The real issue is the date that interest will start accruing. Councilor Hathaway outlined that the Town has every power to change the warrant that states the date interest will start accruing.
Councilor Perkins outlined that more than once he has heard people chuckle about refinancing where the bank has their home valued at $300,000 and yet they are being taxed on $220,000. A lot of residents know the number game, the ones in higher valued neighborhoods more so than less valued neighborhoods.
Manager Reed outlined that all of the complaints he has received are from people that live in expensive homes. He outlined that they seem to think it is inequitable to be taxed on $400,000 if they have built a $400,000 home.
Chairman Champaco inquired how moving the interest date back would affect the Town’s ability to provide or do its job. Manager Reed stated that the Town’s largest taxpayer pays on the due date. There would also be a considerable amount of lost interest. Manager Reed outlined that when the Town has a windfall of interest it is put into the municipal credit reserve and the Town uses that account the next year to help reduce taxes.
Chairman Champaco outlined that every year she expects her taxes to go up and prepares for that. If it is such a hardship to the Town to change the date then she didn’t see why the Town couldn’t give a grace period or extension to taxpayers who are in hardships. Manager Reed outlined that the Town does work with people and arrange payment plans.
Councilor Friedman outlined that he would like to know the percentage of people who escrow their taxes opposed to those who don’t.
Councilor Hathaway stated that he would like the Town to be proactive. The Town doesn’t have to change the due date but at least let people know ahead of time that their value is going up. Councilor Perkins outlined that if the Town sends out notices with valuations and no mil rate, people are just going to be confused.
ITEM 4b. Fire Department Request
Fire Chief Gerry Martin wanted to briefly mention the addressStreetSchool Street fire that occurred on July 28th. After going through the incident reports and tapes it was found that the Fire Department’s “attack method” on the fire prevented a major loss. Chief Martin also wanted to thank Police Chief Mark Leonard for his assistance. Chief Martin outlined that Chief Leonard is always willing to assist and appreciates his constant effort. Manager Reed added that Chief Leonard in the past had also served on a fire department and his knowledge proved valuable because Chief Leonard shut off the gas valves at the building which prevented a greater loss.
Manager Reed outlined that due to new accounting standards a vote was needed to transfer the requested $2,500 from the Fire Department’s Revenue account to the General Maintenance Fund for the purpose of matching a grant received.
Motion By: Councilor Friedman—to authorize the transfer of the $2,500 balance in the 2005-2006 Fire Department Revenue account to the 2006-2007 General Maintenance Fund for the purpose of matching a Safety Enhancement Grant received from the Maine Municipal Association. Seconded: Councilor King, Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 5a. Senior Housing Project Update
Manager Reed provided the Councilors with a draft copy of the lease agreement and went over some of the proposed revisions.
Councilor Perkins stated that he had been approached by residents who still have questions and concerns. There were concerns that there may not be enough seniors to fill those vacancies and if so will low income applicants move in. Manager Reed outlined that it is stipulated that this building is for senior housing and not general low income families.
Member of the public Donald MacKay outlined that he was puzzled by the preference to have Veazie residents in the units because it seemed like that would be discrimination. Chairman Champaco stated that she recalled Stephen Mooers stating that Veazie residents were not given preference.
Councilor Hathaway outlined that when this whole project started a second phase was always part of the discussion. Trails and courts have been rejuvenated since the first phase. He outlined that this is what the Town has always intended to do, nothing has changed.
Motion By: Councilor Friedman—to support and move ahead on the finalization of the proposed lease option agreement. Seconded: Councilor Hathaway, Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 5b. TABOR Update & Invitation
Manager Reed outlined that in the packets there was an invitation from Superintendent Clenchy to attend an informational meeting on TABOR. He stated that if they were unable to attend this meeting that this issue would also be discussed at PVCOG’s annual meeting.
ITEM 6. Comments from the Public
There were no comments from the public.
ITEM 7. Manager’s Report
a. The Town Council reviewed a copy of a letter that was sent to a resident regarding a complaint.
b. The Town Council reviewed a copy of a thank you letter sent to Travis Noyes. He has offered his personal services to come up with a better repair plan for Hobson Avenue.
c. The Town Council reviewed a copy of the annual letter that is sent to Casco Bay Energy pertaining to the TIF fund.
d. The Town Council reviewed a copy of the notice of the PVCOG Annual Meeting.
e. The Town Council reviewed a copy of the Fire Department’s monthly report.
f. The Town Council reviewed a copy of two articles on the Police Department.
g. The Town Council reviewed a copy of the School Committee’s agenda and minutes.
h. The Town Council reviewed a copy of a letter from Adelphia, now Time Warner stating that cable revenues continue to grow and exceed projections.
ITEM 8. Requests for Information and Town Council Comments
Councilor Hathaway inquired when the traffic lines would be painted on the Chase Road. Manager Reed stated that Public Works has put in a request with Superior Lines and right now we are waiting.
Chief Leonard wanted to squelch any rumors that the Council may have heard by letting them know that there is not a sexual predator on Buck Hill Drive. A resident thought an individual working up there was a sexual predator, however the individual was checked out and everything was fine.
Chief Leonard also informed the Council that he hired a full-time police officer.
ITEM 9. Town Warrant 6, Town Payroll 6, School Warrant 6, School Lunch Warrant 6 and School Payroll 6 were circulated and signed.
ITEM 10. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Hathaway—to adjourn the September 18, 2006 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor King—there was no further discussion. Voted 5-0. Meeting adjourned at 8:38 p.m.
A true record, Attest:
Town of Veazie