DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — In a symbolic protest, Greenville town officials have refused to sign the required assessor’s return out of frustration over the town’s rising share of county government costs.
Not signing the document, which is simply a record of the town’s acknowledgment of its financial commitment, does not eliminate Greenville’s responsibility to pony up its share for operation of county government.
“Basically, you can’t do that,” Commissioner Tom Lizotte said Tuesday of rejecting the tax bill. Greenville does not have the option of refusing to pay its assessment, he said. The tax is due Sept. 1 and 7.75 percent interest will be charged on unpaid balances.
Greenville is the highest-valued town in the county and thus pays the largest share of county costs. For 2009, the county assessed the town $416,453. The unorganized territory funds the largest share of county government at 32.8 percent.
“The increase in the county tax assessment for the Town of Greenville from 2008 to 2009 of $50,934 is unacceptable,” selectmen wrote in a letter received by the commissioners and discussed Tuesday. Selectmen noted the 13.93 percent increase was the second-largest increase in a single year for more than a decade.
While Commissioners Lizotte and Fred Trask said Tuesday they understood Greenville’s concerns with the rising tax, they noted the assessment is tied to state valuations over which the commissioners have no control.
“County commissioners have no control over your increasing property valuation, and as long as people of means find Greenville to be an attractive location for constructing expensive homes with waterfront views of Moosehead Lake and Wilson Pond, your town’s valuation will continue its rapid rise,” the commissioners wrote in a letter of response Tuesday.
Greenville is not the only community with waterfront that has seen its state valuation increase, according to Lizotte. He said the valuation in Lake View, population 53, had increased from $28.7 million in 2000 to $120.5 million in 2009, which is more than Milo pays with its population of 2,383.
Combined, the waterfront communities of Beaver Cove, Bowerbank, Willimantic and Lake View have less than one-quarter of Greenville’s population, yet they match Greenville’s valuation and county tax assessment, according to Lizotte.
“None of those four towns have refused to sign their assessors’ return document, nor have they complained about not receiving county services in proportion to their valuation,” the commissioners noted in their letter.
In the Greenville board’s letter to the commissioners, selectmen noted that as a primary service center, Greenville offers more services to the region than other communities. While the town bills for what services it can, the tax-exempt property used by residents throughout the region is at the town’s expense, they wrote.
Any benefit of increased property valuation is diluted by the “virtual absence” of state education funds, the cost of public infrastructure and the “opportunity cost of tax-exempt property,” declining state revenues, and the rising county tax, according to selectmen.
That prompted the commissioners to remind selectmen that the county had paid a substantial increase of 62 percent to Greenville for landfill costs, recycling and fire protection for Harford’s Point, Big Moose Township and Moosehead Junction Township.
“Is it not inconsistent for the Town of Greenville to complain of a 13.93 percent increase in this year’s county tax, while at the same time passing along a 62-percent increase to the county?” the commissioners asked.