HERMON, Maine — A week after voters shot down a town meeting warrant article seeking to split property tax bills over two due dates, town councilors unanimously voted Thursday night to stay with the current April 1 deadline.
The decision was among several made during Thursday’s council meeting. Though well-attended, it was subdued compared to many in the last several months.
Hermon found itself without a due date last week, after voters rejected a plan current town officials said would have stabilized property tax revenues, now due near the end of the fiscal year, by having half due in October and the other half due in April.
Opponents said that would hurt people on fixed incomes, many of whom would end up paying a year and a half’s worth of taxes in the first year because of the change.
On Thursday, councilors’ choices were to bring the matter before voters at a special town meeting, set the deadline themselves or put the matter out to a referendum vote, which would have put the town in a serious time crunch.
In an effort to bring tax revenue into Hermon in February and March, currently the leanest in terms of revenue, Chairwoman Sharon Nickerson suggested March 15 as a possible deadline. She noted that this would give those who depend on income tax refunds to pay property tax bills ample time to file for refunds, which many now do electronically.
Anthony Reynolds, a former councilor who won a council seat in last week’s elections, said that would be a bad idea.
“I really believe that the people at the town meeting weren’t interested in a compromise,” he said.
Alden Brown, a former councilor who ran as a write-in agreed. “If you want a compromise next year, put your ducks in a row now,” he said.
Resident Don Page weighed in as well, advising councilors to stick with the April 1 date.
“I don’t think any controversy at this point would be beneficial to the atmosphere of this town,” he said.
The tax due date issue was among several Reynolds and Donald Pelletier, another former councilor who ran last week, raised in a mass mailing sent out the week before the elections and town meeting. The two urged voters to reject warrant articles seeking to split tax payments in two, now due April 1, claiming it would hurt those on fixed incomes and allow town councilors to mask future tax hikes and fund unspecified “unnecessary services,” charges that town councilors rejected in a countermailer sent out a week later.
Tensions between town officials and Hermon Volunteer Rescue supporters have been running high since earlier this year, when the council voted to implement a fire-based emergency medical services model after years of fruitless contract negotiations. The plan is now on hold pending the recommendations of a task force appointed this spring.