FALMOUTH, Maine — Six residents and nearly all town councilors voiced skepticism during an hour-long discussion of a proposal to outsource Falmouth’s assessing services to Cumberland County on Monday.
Nonetheless, the council voted 6-0 to authorize Town Manager Nathan Poore to negotiate a contract with the county.
Regardless of the outcome, Falmouth will need a new assessor by the end of the fiscal year because on June 31, long-time assessor Anne Gregory plans to retire.
The town is faced with a choice: Hire a new full-time assessor to replace Gregory, or join with Cumberland and Yarmouth in outsourcing that responsibility to Gary James, director of regional assessing for the county. If hired, James would spend part of his work week in Town Hall.
Poore said consolidation would net the town an annual savings of $56,000, but several residents expressed reservations, including Carol MacNaught, who said outsourcing would erode Falmouth’s small-town character.
“I’d hate to lose what we’ve got,” she said.
Resident Willy Audet questioned the utility of outsourcing a “cheap department” that’s responsible for billions of dollars in property values. He offered a dire prediction.
“You’re going to be known as the council that handed over $2.3 billion [in property assessments] to an experiment,” he said.
Most councilors were cool on the subject, including Russ Anderson, who said he’s seen failed efforts to consolidate or outsource in the business community. Outsourcing might work for a “peripheral” department, like information technology, he said, but it should be avoided in other cases.
“Do it with something that is not a core function,” Anderson said.
Poore said he would present the council with results of the contract negotiations at its March 10 meeting.