Town finds fund oversight

Posted Aug. 25, 2008, at 9:10 p.m.

SANGERVILLE, Maine — Residents at the annual town meeting in March voted to use $43,400 in road revenue funds to offset taxes in 2008.

But it didn’t happen.

Town Manager Joe Clark told selectmen last week that Hamlin Associates, the town’s assessor, did not include Department of Transportation Rural Initiative Funds in the computation of taxes. The mistake, he said, was uncovered this week.

An official with Hamlin Associates said the town, not the firm, made the mistake.

“This here is a commitment error for the taxes of the municipality,” Clark said.

Had the funds been included, the mill rate would have been $14.44 not the $15 per $1,000 property valuation now in place.

Just what to do with the $43,400 now will be the subject of a special town meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, in the community room of the town hall.

The Maine Municipal Association said the town has two options, according to Clark.

One is to abate the taxes that have been paid to date and send letters with new tax bills to those who have unpaid taxes and then recommit the taxes. This would cost the town between $2,500 to $3,000, he said.

The second option, and the option recommended by Clark, is to appropriate the funds to help pay off a $100,000 road improvement loan approved by voters in March.

“All this is just an oversight,” Clark said Monday. He said he and clerk Alice Moulton were going over the municipal figures and found the mistake that was made before he took over as town manager. Clark told selectmen the assessing firm should have known about the local road assistance funds since the town has received these funds for several years.

Elizabeth Morin, president of Hamlin Associates of Parkman, said Monday the road revenue had not been included in the numbers the town provided her firm for the computation of taxes, or they would have been included.

Selectmen, who believe it was the assessing firm’s mistake, directed Clark to ask if the firm was bonded. In the event residents voted this week to use the funds to reduce the tax rate, such bond insurance would cover the extra costs of recommitting the taxes, they noted.

Morin told Clark on Monday her firm was not bonded.

Regardless of the mistake, Clark said, the town would actually benefit by using the funds to reduce the loan.

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