April 07, 2020

Town manager warns voters against TABOR

ST. AGATHA – Ryan Pelletier, the outgoing president of the Maine Municipal Association and town manager of St. Agatha, is convinced that over time the proposed Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, would strangle towns, especially small towns like his own.

He believes cuts created through TABOR would affect regional economic and community development, road paving, recreation, social agencies and equipment for municipal services.

He said estimates show that St. Agatha’s municipal budget would have been cut by 35 percent over the last 10 years if TABOR had been in effect.

Maine residents will vote on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights on Nov. 7.

“All town services would be vulnerable to cuts or outright elimination should TABOR pass this fall,” Pelletier said Monday. “The town’s priorities would be road maintenance, snowplowing and emergency services.

“By year three [under TABOR] we would be looking at doing away with programs or services that voters have already approved,” he said. “Over time, its effects will be drastic.”

Pelletier said the St. Agatha Board of Selectmen will look at the effects of TABOR at its next meeting, possibly during the week of Oct. 16. He said he will seek a resolution against TABOR.

Pelletier said that while TABOR is not as drastic as other options have been, “over time TABOR slows government.”

He called it a “clever gimmick” that actually strangles the government.

In St. Agatha, Pelletier said, there would be no more recreation department, and the town would have forgone projects such as the regional community and economic development office it opened in a joint venture with Frenchville.

The community development office has brought in $3.8 million in grants since it was created in 2003.

“With TABOR, we could not have gotten that off the ground,” Pelletier said.

In the past seven years, the town has replaced two firetrucks – one was 46 years old and the other was 32. Under TABOR, the town would not have the 1999 and 2003 firetrucks we have today, Pelletier said.

A financial analysis by the Maine Municipal Association, according to Pelletier, showed that the present municipal budget would be $195,504 less than it is today. The 2005 budget would have been $365,009 instead of $560,513.

“TABOR would be a major step backwards and in the wrong direction for us.”

It would “gut our entire action plan as a community,” he said. Pelletier predicted that if TABOR passes, town office staff could be cut to part-time personnel and the town office might be closed one day a week. It could eliminate many street lights and defer purchase of firefighting equipment. Building through public works would be nearly nonexistent, and public works equipment might not be updated; and many social services could be eliminated.

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