July 18, 2019

Palesky tax cap seems too good to be true … and is

There’s a saying that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The Palesky tax cap is a perfect example of this. Deceptively simple, on the surface it sounds like the cure-all for high property taxes, but upon closer inspection, you will soon realize the many detrimental consequences it will bring. If you are in favor of this proposal, I urge you to consider the statements below. If only one of them gives you reason to doubt this drastic measure, a no vote should be cast and efforts placed behind a bill that will fairly and effectively curtail rising property taxes.

. Cities and towns will face revenue shortfalls between 30 percent and 50 percent. Information disseminated from cities and towns regarding cuts in services are not scare tactics. They are reporting to their citizens what can be offered with the reduced income they will have. I challenge any homeowner to lessen their income by 30 percent to 50 percent and see how their lives will be changed.

. A well-rounded education is one that offers more than the three “R’s.” It is important for students to have a variety of programs offered so they may try new experiences and challenge themselves in areas they otherwise might not. For example, art, music, drama, sports all teach concepts and values that cannot be taught in other subjects. How can that continue if schools are faced with budget cuts of 30 percent to 50 percent?

. Much has been said about our public safety as police and fire departments will face significant reductions. Every area of municipal government will face cuts. Programs that provide assistance to those in need will be reduced or eliminated. A yes vote of Question 1 could very well end those programs people depend upon causing an even greater burden on our population.

. Renters will see the same cuts in services as everyone else. Will their rent be reduced proportionally to a property tax decrease?

. Living in a rural town, I know the effect a volunteer fire department has on my homeowner’s insurance premium. If cuts are made to city fire departments, you can count on house insurance premiums rising.

. Proponents talk about the success of the tax cap in California. If the tax cap was so successful in California, why do property taxes now only make up about two-thirds of the tax bill of many residents? The rest are imposed fees or added taxes.

. It is alleged the state will step in and help towns. Do we really want our towns to depend on the state and sacrifice local control? How will the state pay for this assistance? I can only think of higher sales or income taxes.

. Out-of-state residents would realize the most significant gains. They would not be affected to the same extent as Maine residents by new fees or added taxes to make up for the loss of income. Simply stated, the tax burden would be put upon a smaller number of people.

. Last June, Maine residents approved a referendum for the state to pay 55 percent of the cost of education. Most towns have opted to pass this savings on to their residents. We must give this a chance. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce offers a plan that shows great promise. This also should be given a chance.

We expect and rely upon our government to provide services and programs. These do not come free. I sympathize with and understand the frustration and anger of those on fixed incomes. I, too, am very much in favor of tax control and relief, however the Palesky proposal is not the answer. For those voting yes to send a message, municipal governments have received that message. They know if something isn’t done, it won’t be long before a similar tax referendum will appear before the voters.

A solid, equitable and effective solution to taxes is not simple to craft, but can and will be created – one that is far better than what the Palesky cap can offer. Vote no on Question 1.

Jim Paton is a music teacher. He lives in Carmel.

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