On behalf of towns, cities and local property taxpayers, Maine Municipal Association thanks Rep. Lori Fowle for her Jan. 18 column (“State must pay what it owes, pledged to our cities and towns”). We agree: The Legislature should follow a 1972, property-tax relief law requiring the state to share 5 percent of its sales and income tax revenues with municipalities.

Two points require clarification. Rep. Fowle wrote that the state budget passed last year prevented “many, but not all” of the revenue-sharing cuts. Actually, by law the state should share $138 million this year with municipalities. Instead, $65 million will be distributed, less than half of what’s required.

Rep. Fowle wrote that the state budget included language “to come up with $40 million more in state revenue” in 2015. Actually, an additional $40 million was put at risk by the budget. A bill is pending to hold the line at $60 million — instead of falling precipitously in 2015, to $20 million — but it faces an uncertain future. Even if enacted, the bill is a far cry from what’s required.

The law was last followed in 2009, when property taxpayers in Rep. Fowle’s hometown (Vassalboro) benefited from $237,041 in revenue sharing. For FY 2014, it’s $118,857 and, if nothing changes, it will be $36,571 in 2015. Rep. Fowle serves part of the city of Augusta. Its figures: $2.3 million in 2009; $1.16 million in FY 2014; and, $356,000 projected for 2015. Those are devastating cuts.

Meanwhile, the state budget cruises at $6.3 billion. State agency cost overruns make weekly headlines. Legislature-approved mandates are forced on towns and cities. And, the state “balances” its budgets on the backs of homeowners, who pay higher property taxes for reduced municipal and school services.

Eric ConradDirector of communicationMaine Municipal Association

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