Commissioners receptive to biannual billing schedule

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FARMINGTON – County commissioners met with town representatives today, discussing a plan to change the billing schedule for the county taxes in order to lessen the local impact on communities within Franklin County.

The idea was put forward by Carrabassett Valley Town Manager David Cota in response to a decision by the county commissioners to switch from a calendar fiscal year to a June/July schedule. The switch was prompted by the state’s takeover of the jail system, with that entity now operating on a June/July fiscal year.

However, as Cota pointed out, a side effect of the switch would be the need for the towns to fund a six-month county budget, followed by a 12-month county budget. Due to the timing of the switch, both tax bills would currently be due on Nov. 1, 2009.

“You changed your fiscal year,” Cota said, “the problem is there is a fairly substantive impact here.”

Cota noted that his town typically paid roughly $600,000 in county taxes a year, and was now being asked to effectively pay 18 months of taxes, or $900,000.

“This is serious for us,” he said. “We’ve got to raise the money for 18 months of taxes.”

Jay Town Manager Ruth Marden agreed.

“I am working on our budget right now,” she said. “We’re asking our departments for flat budgets because we’re looking at declining revenues like everyone else. This is a big hit.”

Cota’s suggestion was to change the billing schedule from a single date in November to two billing dates, one in the spring and one in the fall. This would let towns mitigate the impact of the fiscal year switch in the short run and give communities more flexibility in the long run. Cota also noted that the schedule change would help the county, who currently receive all of their funding near the end of their fiscal year.

“I haven’t seen a downside to this,” Cota said.

Other town representatives agreed. Both Kingfield and Farmington, like Carrabassett Valley, are on the calendar fiscal schedule that the county is in the process of switching away from. Farmington Town Manager Richard Davis and Kingfield Administrative Assistant Greg Davis said the biannual billing would help them move forward in increasingly difficult economic times.

Marden and Rangeley Town Manager Perry Ellsworth said that they would also appreciate the biannual schedule, although their towns, which operate on a June/July fiscal year, would not benefit as much as Farmington and Kingfield.

The commissioners were receptive to the idea, asking County Clerk Julie Magoon to consult legal experts on the process of changing to a biannual billing schedule. Davis noted that the county may need to adopt language allowing the early payment of taxes, similar to what most towns have now.

“I think it’ll help both the county and the town’s cash flow,” said Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay.

In other business, commissioners approved the hiring of Greg Roux of Farmington, for the courthouse’s custodial position. Magoon noted that Roux’s 30 years of experience in construction would come in handy at the building, which is beginning to show signs of its age.

A plumbing problem in an office on the first floor was recently corrected, with the plumber accidentally finding several, unrelated leaks in a pipe in the basement while he was at the courthouse.

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