BANGOR, Maine — As part of an ongoing effort to work together across town lines, the communities of Bangor, Orono and Veazie are exploring a collaboration on municipal assessing functions.
The town councils of Orono and Veazie recently voted separately on orders directing representatives of their communities to work with Bangor’s assessing office in the coming weeks on possible options. Bangor is expected to consider a similar order later this month.
Bangor Assessor Ben Birch said it’s not as simple as the city absorbing the assessing operations of its neighboring communities.
“Our staff is not large enough to just take theirs over,” he said. “[The idea] is not as simple as it sounds; we have a long way to go.”
The assessing discussion grew out of broader talks initiated last fall about how the three communities could regionalize.
Orono Interim Town Manager Maria Weinberger and Veazie Town Manager Bill Reed both said assessing is a good first step, because the state guidelines around assessing are relatively uniform.
“Working together provides a continuity of service and could create the opportunity for a centralized database,” Reed said.
Municipal assessors are responsible for determining property values for taxation purposes. Bangor has a small staff led by Birch; Orono has a single assessor, who also provides service for the town of Milford on a contract basis; Veazie Assessor Allan Thomas splits his time between assessing and code enforcement and is ex-pected to retire within the next year.
“It’s a great start to this conversation about increased collaboration, but it doesn’t mean we’re jumping into this,” Weinberger said. “I think the tone is as important as the subject matter. It’s how we can work together to provide better and more comprehensive service.”
Discussions around regionalization generally are precipitated by budget constraints, officials in the three communities said, but collaboration does not always save money.
Reed said he doesn’t expect an assessing collaboration to save Veazie any money, but it could provide a greater depth of service. He pointed out that Veazie already contracts with Bangor for vehicle maintenance.
Weinberger agreed that cost savings don’t always happen, but she expects the towns to explore additional opportunities in the coming months.
“I think there are going to see more conversations around regionalization. People are talking about this,” she said.
Representatives of the three communities are expected to meet on Jan. 24 and again in February to talk about options for moving forward.