March 15, 2010

Penny tax proposed for new civic centerThis is a 6-60-1 dummy headlyne yyyyy

By DENNIS HOEY Staff Writer

— By DENNIS HOEY

Staff Writer

Cumberland County Manager Peter J. Crichton wants the county to consider a sales tax that would generate funds to build a new convention and civic center.

Crichton introduced his proposal, which he is calling ''A Penny for Cumberland County,'' during his 2009 budget presentation to members of the county's Budget Advisory Committee.

Capturing a penny on every sale for the county would generate about $40 million a year in new revenue, Crichton said. The measure would be subject to a sunset provision, meaning voters would have to reauthorize the tax after a period of 10 years.

Crichton said a portion of the revenue could be dedicated toward property tax relief for county taxpayers, the creation of a new police investigative service, tourism promotion and the construction of a new convention/civic center somewhere in the region.

''Over time, (the Cumberland County Civic Center is) going to become obsolete if we don't do something,'' Crichton said. ''It has served us well, but we need to exercise some vision and be looking ahead.''

Crichton said a committee should be formed to design the county tax program, before asking county voters to approve the tax in 2009 or 2010. The Legislature would then have to endorse the tax.

''A Penny for Cumberland County'' would earmark $6 million a year to pay for construction of a new civic center. The current facility is more than 30 years old.

''I think it's a great idea,'' said Cumberland County Commissioner Richard Feeney, who attended the presentation. ''It would cost us as much to renovate the civic center as it is to build a new one.''

After the meeting, Crichton said the civic center's space constraints and age do not allow it to compete with concert venues in Manchester and Boston. He would not speculate on where a new center might be built, but Feeney said it likely wouldn't be in Portland.

Budget Advisory Committee members will spend several weeks reviewing Crichton's budget proposal, which reflects a $756,000, or 3.5 percent, spending increase.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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