Property taxes on Maine real estate, the bills sent out by town assessors on Fridays.
Because from experience, less phone calls and trips to the Maine town office happen. No one likes to see the official looking property tax bill delivered by the man in blue no matter what the weather. But the knee jerk reaction to show distaste for an increase, bump in property taxes is less pronounced when there is a cooling off period built in from the get go.
Two days lag time from the opening of the Maine property tax bill until the opportunity Monday morning to trot in, give the town office a jingle makes a whale of difference.
Other events, situations come into play during the weekend delay in a person’s life. And by the first of the week, the sting of a hefty property tax increase still smarts. But to go the extra mile to look into how come and what can we do about whittling it down fades. Not as foaming at the mouth, as end of the world important or urgent as back when the news first arrived courtesy of the postal service door to door delivery.
It is a given that death and taxes are a sure thing. Part of life but getting the most bang for your buck can cause concern that there must be waste somewhere to justify why the property tax increase happens. Beyond the pain in the wallet or purse, increase in property taxes puts a burden on the rest of the small Maine town. The overhead for businesses takes a jab, compounded by the given long distance costs to transport materials in and products out from this rural outpost. The cost of heating fuel added to the “should I stay or should I go” off shore decision for those now operating in the upper right hand corner of the country.
Individuals not so happy about a property tax increase are feeling the shift from the state capital coffers handed like a hot potato or hand grenade back to the local towns to fund programs and services.
Creating a greater burden on one of the 108 Maine small town municipalities with mounting costs of their own on the local level. Just being a double whammy to the knock down, drag out wrestling of local tax payers who scramble to look for ways to stop the heavy bleeding. For long term survival.
But as the hunt for where to cut back gets eagle eyed, how would you know where the dotted line is on individual departments of a small Maine town without research, attending budget meetings, asking questions? And what if the departments are lean and mean, cut to the bone and waste is not an issue. Level of services provided is and where to ease back the throttle? That is going to hurt. Not going to be popular or win friends. And ruffle everyone’s feathers in that small Maine town.
Human nature can talk up cut backs and service reductions to beat the band.
As long as the scale back is in areas that does not directly affect the Maine property tax payer specifically. Depends on whose ox is being gored. But across the board ease back on the spending RPMs of a small Maine town is not so easy. When state and federal laws dictate they must do this, this and oh yeah, that. With thousands of new bills introduced, modified in committee and many becoming iron clad must do laws yearly. To add to the paperwork shuffle on the local, county and state level in small town Maine that is suffocating local resources. Duplication of services from state, county and local or neighboring townships should be the first inspection area.
Fear of litigation, bad publicity can cause sacred areas of a town budget left untouched too.
Politics does enter into the smell of the room. And across the board rein it in 10% or more schemes with each Maine town department left to do it’s own trimming as it sees fit in prioritizing cuts can be overly simplistic. But better than someone outside the department providing the hit list of what to take out if the executioner does not know the inner workings of the day to day intimately. Like those in the department do. Who should be guiding the cuts they have adjust to, live with in the healing recovery process. But not if the idea if we cut back, we won’t get as much next year for funding derails the belt tightening. Government budgets are not designed for coming in under the mark, giving back what was allocated at the beginning of the year.
“We’ve always done it this way” is not going to be a successful motto to lead the charge. To use in guiding or putting off the required municipal surgery. To avoid hitting an economic artery, to scare away existing or new businesses that fuel, are the engine that drives the local economy. If no jobs, it is like no farmer, no food. Except no pay check to pay the local property tax bill. And pick up the tab for groceries, keep the lights shining with utility charges in the black, not red. Along with property insurance, building upkeep, heating costs, cell phones, kid’s braces and college account payments.
Plus vehicle maintenance, escalating health care expenses and all the other personal line items in the household monthly budget that need timely attention. To be kept current, within budget or below. To create a nest egg, a savings bank cushion to preserve not expecting Uncle Sam to take care of you when it is your job to stand on your own two feet. But to only help those unfortunates, to support just those who can not on their own. Everyone can not be on welfare for long right? If everyone is in the wagon, who is pulling it?
If you want to know if there is any waste in a local town government, poll the people who work in the departments.
Not just the department heads. It may need to be anonymously if fear of job loss or retaliation for spilling the beans, being perceived as a whistle blower for spotlighting slack in the operation. But the folks working day to day know where the waste is. Or of more efficient new methods to get the same or better results. What would you do Mr Second, Third and so on in command if you were king for the day? Leading the department from the helm. The bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise.
Plus the local employees have the rich, valuable history experiences. Of why this method did or did not work way back when. The trial and error knowledge to help hammer out, shape the brave new future path the department should be headed. For much needed correction, adjustment fine tuning to be the best it can be with what it has to work with today. In the budget balancing to keep the small Maine town healthy, economically afloat. The team morale positive, full of pride and respect during the tough decisions that have to be made, not put off any longer. Small children cover their eyes to make problems go away. It does not work so well as adults.
With anyone back biting or overly harsh, negative, critical always, always made to offer workable solutions too.
Not just allowed to lob stray rocks from all directions into the fray of frustration that the cut backs, reductions are bound to cause. Character assassination is destructive. Not the approach chosen when tough decisions need to be implemented. Because folks get scared, defensive if they are in a town position that could be eliminated. Where a pink slip in the salary envelope gets tucked in, generated. Especially upsetting if the folks guiding the chopping block exercise have not done their home work. Rolled up their sleeves, gotten knee deep down and dirty into each department’s inner workings now under ER room, life and death, do or die last hour scrutiny.
But what if the departments of a small Maine town are running tightly, as efficiently as possible? Then vilifying, chastising the public servants, tying them to the whipping post is not going to help find the best solution. Cutting staff and level of service is not a popular subject. But it is long term, get used to it reality, then the simple economics of revenues competing with expenses kicks in. Takes over in the need to yank the steering wheel to seek a balance. To put on the brakes. Or if ignored, property taxes increased annually in a struggling small Maine towns not flush with cash will mean one by one each ceases to exist. And will the last guy out of the small Maine town, shut off the lights please?
Maine, home grown, resourceful and independent. Built to survive.