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Fairfield Taxpayers Asked to Offer Solutions to Potential Revenue Shortfalls
By: David Deschesne
FORT FAIRFIELD—While Fort Fairfield is financially much more efficiently run than neighboring Presque Isle and Caribou, the current proposed cuts in revenue sharing from the State is forcing the town council to consider radical changes as the economic depression we’re in deepens and revenue streams into government coffers are drying up at all levels.
Recently, the town office mailed a full color, six page newsletter to all Fort Fairfield taxpayers explaining a potential decrease in town revenue by as much as $812,520—or 31% of its current budget. After having already cut all the excess from their budget over the past several years, they claim there is no more “fat” left to cut.
“Fort Fairfield is a moderate income community with many people living on fixed incomes,” said Fort Fairfield town manager, Dan Foster. “Simply raising taxes to cover this kind of shortfall really isn’t practical for people who are already struggling with their own financial problems.”
This means we may actually have to eliminate some of the services we’ve been providing over the years. We wanted to give them an opportunity to participate in this decision-making process so the town council will have some guidance on which way to proceed.”
One of the most efficiently run departments of the town is the Public Works department which, among other things, takes care of building, maintaining and plowing the 100 miles of town-owned roads. Neighboring Presque Isle maintains about the same road mileage as Fort Fairfield does, but does so at over twice the expense to its taxpayers. For example, It costs Fort Fairfield on average $9,555.77 per mile, per year to maintain their roads, but Presque Isle charges their taxpayers $19,895.81 per mile per year for essentially the same service.
The Fire Department, which is primarily all volunteer, is merged and shares costs with Limestone and Loring Development Authority. Fort’s Fire Department only costs taxpayers $29.37 per citizen per year while Presque Isle’s costs its taxpayers $133.01 per citizen per year. Other town departments have similar cost savings compared to other towns in the area so there really isn’t much more money that can be taken out of their budgets while still expecting them to maintain their level of service to the community.
The town spends $2,637,518 on its annual budget, of which it receives $1,341,426 in local property taxes. This leaves $1,296,092 that is derived from other sources, such as revenue sharing from the State, which is now dwindling due to the depression.
In addition to its $2.6 million budget, the town also has to support the local school system which is an additional $1,990,429, making the total burden to taxpayers in this town of approximately 3,500 around $4.5 million.
Regarding the state’s revenue sharing reductions, Governor Paul LePage suggested towns could pair down their costs and consolidate services to be more efficient. “There are many towns and cities across our State that can consolidate services and save money. For instance, Fairfield, Oakland, Waterville and Winslow all are within a 5 mile radius. Each has their own fire and police, schools, public works personnel along with many other duplicative services. Combined, these communities are approximately the size of Lewiston,” said Governor LePage in a recent weekly address on the topic of revenue sharing. “So-called stimulus dollars from the federal government, or what I consider federal welfare, are gone. Matching funds are being cut. Maine stands to lose $40 million in federal funding for Medicaid in the next two years. We simply cannot tax our way to recovery. We cannot continue to increase taxes to fix our welfare problem. And we cannot spend money we do not have.”
The primary expenses of Fort Fairfield are:
Fire Dept. $101,462
Public Works $955,566
Rec. Dept. $150,502
Community Ctr. $34,000
Crown Ambulance $40,000
Street Lighting $35,000
Public Fire Protection $124,795
Tri-Community Landfill $89,736
Capitol Reserves $120,000
Despite the rosy, pro-government propaganda headlines on nearly every edition of U.S.A. Today that depicts a roaring economy on the road to financial prosperity, the reality is there is no recovery, banks are consuming billions of dollars in compounding interest fees on our trillions of dollars in outstanding debt, we’re on the hook for nearly $0.240 quadrillion dollars in bailing out banks for their fraudulent derivatives Ponzi schemes and the U.S. government has paid, with taxpayer money, most of our large businesses and industry to relocate to Mexico and China.
This is the financial world we are now living in and the Fort Fairfield town council is inviting public participation in determining the future of the town and the services it provides.
Those interested in sharing their ideas may contact the town office at 472-3800; Council chair, David McCrea at 472-4212; or visit the town’s website, www.fortfairfield.org
Fort Fairfield Journal ©2013 David R. Deschesne, All Rights Reserved