In light of the dire circumstances we all find ourselves in with regard to the economy, I applaud the Greenville town officials who refused to sign and therefore accept the recent annual bill from the Piscataquis County commissioners.
In response to the article, “Officials: Greenville must pay county tax” (BDN, March 18), regarding that issue, I am compelled to ask some serious questions of our local elected officials. Has it escaped notice by the people holding those offices that property values have dramatically declined over the past year throughout the county? And do they honestly believe even though assessments have not yet caught up to reflecting that fact, that they can still use incorrect and inflated values to exact their annual due from the towns throughout this county?
Every day we hear about another industry hanging on by its fingernails, and every day we hear of workers in all types of industries taking pay cuts in order to save their jobs. Why then, would these commissioners think that they can ask the towns for funds to continue to pay for the services rendered at even higher rates than were paid last year? Did each of you, and I speak not only to the county officials now, but to those of every town in the county, contact each and every service provider and ask that they lower their rate for the services they provide?
Having served six years as an elected official in my town, I know personally the residents who plow the snow, grade the roads and care for our infrastructure, and I know they earn their money and do good work. But in these difficult times, isn’t it the responsibility of our elected officials to go out there and seek better prices for the services we pay for, both town and county? Wouldn’t doing so prevent the taxpayers from be billed as much or more this year as they were last year for services that are harder and harder to fund, while still affording those contractors some continued work?
Did you all contact your insurance, utility, fuel and communication services providers and ask them for relief in their rates? Did you explore lowering the salaries of town and county personnel, including your own? Did you ask your elected state officials to work at their level to lower education costs by addressing the salaries of our schoolteachers and administrators and those of our state road and highway workers?
My guess is you didn’t and instead you simply accept their costs as fixed and in most cases consider those areas “off-limits” to such discussions. You look for ways to cut costs by cutting services, instead of cutting the costs of services like is being done in every other industry in the country.
And, hold onto your hat — this one will really take some guts — did you ever consider starting to charge even nominal property taxes for all the churches, civic organizations, lodges, legion halls and other tax-exempt properties that proliferate throughout our towns, instead of having them all enjoy the benefits of public services without paying any share of the costs? I say why not? The state wants to tax us for paddling a canoe, why shouldn’t churches pay property taxes?
I know this may not all be in your current job descriptions, but these are extraordinary times. We need you to do more for the pay you receive, too, and we need you to endeavor to find ways to make things work for less money, instead of having the nerve to ask us for more money when pockets are empty, jobs and homes are being lost and futures are uncertain. If you can’t, then it’s time you were replaced. It’s time for “Change We Can Believe In” at the local level, too.
Jim Glavine is a former selectman in Beaver Cove.