Last month we received a check from the state for $104, which I think was to help pay our property taxes. While I appreciated the check, there’s a lot more the state could and should be doing to lower our property taxes.

For example, our towns are supposed to receive 5% of certain taxes the state receives, known as revenue sharing, but the state has fallen far short of that in recent years. Gov. Janet Mills and the Legislature increased revenue sharing to 3% this year and slightly more next year, but that is still short of what we’re supposed to receive.

Most of our property taxes go to education, and I have felt for a long time that the state should be providing a lot more funding for our schools, particularly given that the state continues to add requirements and demands to our local schools. In Mount Vernon, 66% of our property taxes go to education.

Portland Press Herald reporter Gillian Graham wrote on Feb. 17 about tax breaks for businesses that are not serving their intended purposes. Two state programs offer property tax breaks to businesses that purchase equipment. A report from the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability reported that this tax reimbursement and exemption program are not effective.

The report also noted that these tax breaks are harmful to municipalities, who are reimbursed by the state only about 60% of the tax revenue they lose from these property tax breaks. I bet there are also other state business tax breaks that reduce towns’ property taxes.

Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio of Sanford told Graham that the OPEGA findings were eye opening. “It really clarified for me the tax shift from the state to municipalities,” she said. Quite clearly, it’s time for the Legislature and governor to end this program.

Our house in Mount Vernon includes 7 acres and our property taxes are a little over $8,000. I know that many people in our town and all over Maine are struggling to pay their property taxes. Some towns are allowing people to stay in their homes even after they have lost ownership of their home to the town for failure to pay property taxes. That is very nice and generous.

If you think you actually own your home, stop paying your property taxes and you’ll find out that you don’t actually own your home. I think a lot of people live in very nice homes, and while they are working, they can afford their property taxes. But after they retire, paying those taxes becomes more difficult.

My wife Linda and I did reduce our property taxes when we donated our woodlot to the Kennebec Land Trust. Lots of people are enjoying that land now, hiking the trails, even on snowshoes this winter. That pleases us very much. This summer KLT will build a trail across the bog and through the woods on the other side. Most of Maine’s wild animals can be seen on the woodlot, and I especially like seeing kids there.

I’m sure you realize that many of our very best places are privately owned yet, through the generosity of those landowners, are available to all of us, while the private landowners pay all the taxes. A lot of our snowmobile and ATV trails are on private land.

The state also offers property tax breaks to forest landowners, yet another thing that raises the property taxes of everyone else, with no help to local towns from the state.

There is something else the state could do to help reduce our property taxes, which pays for the expensive county jails and sheriffs departments. I believe law enforcement and jails should be state expenses, not the responsibility of towns. That would give us a nice reduction in our property taxes.

So if you agree with me on any of this, please contact your state representative and senator and ask them to step up for Maine property taxpayers and towns.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.