We have a tax problem in Waterville. With a proposed property tax rate of $25.27 per $1,000 of valuation, Waterville stands at nearly $10 higher than many of the communities that surround us. So long as that tax difference exists, we will continue to drive both residential and commercial investments into those surrounding communities and away from Waterville. With Waterville’s tax rate projected to climb to $30 per $1,000 in valuation in the near future, this trend will only worsen. In recent years, the City Council has tried a variety of policy solutions aimed at curtailing rising tax rates, ranging from tax revaluations to purple trash bags to hoping state policies on municipal revenue sharing might change. They have all failed. Whether the current budget recall is successful or not, Waterville will be left with a tax rate that is a competitive disadvantage relative to our neighboring communities.

Under the leadership of David Greene, Colby College has embarked on a bold plan to create a first-class college and community to rival the best in New England, if not the country, having invested $400 million-$500 million in improvements to the Colby campus and Waterville’s downtown over the past several years. Those investments are appreciated and will help in transitioning our community from the bustling mill town of old to the quaint college town we are becoming.

Yet Colby College by itself cannot renovate the private property of every Waterville business and homeowner. Only a competitive tax policy that gives individual residents and investors the confidence to invest in our community can do that. So long as Waterville’s tax problem persists, I fear the premier community Greene has invested so much to create will not come to pass, and those investments will therefore never reach their full potential.

For that reason I, and the residents, employees and business owners of Waterville who have chosen to add their names to the petition below, ask that Colby College consider making one additional investment in our community.

We ask that Colby College, in concert with Thomas College, voluntarily contribute the funds necessary to lower and maintain Waterville’s tax rate at a competitive level of $18.95 per $1,000 valuation for a period of five years. The resulting tax break will drive forward private investment in our city and, in short order, bring to life the community we all seek to create.

We believe the estimated $15 million-$20 million cost to implement the above proposal will, over time, prove the most productive investment made by Colby College in this or any other decade.

Colby College has helped us to revitalize Waterville’s Main Street. Will Colby College now take up the challenge of helping us to revitalize our entire city and community?

To add and sign your name to the petition asking Colby and Thomas colleges to contribute and lower Waterville’s property tax rates, go to askcolbyandrepetition.com.

Mark Andre is a Waterville resident and the Republican candidate for House District 110, including Waterville and Oakland.

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