January 3, 2013

LePage administration wades into Brunswick tax fight

The town accuses the LePage administration of 'picking sides' in its property tax dispute involving Kestrel Aeroworks.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Gov. Paul LePage

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In this February 2011 file photo, Kestrel Aircraft Company shows off one of its planes during a ceremony at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. Officials in Brunswick say the LePage administration appears to be meddling in a tax dispute between the town and the agency that's redeveloping the former air station. The complaint centers on L.D. 492, a bill the LePage administration submitted to clarify the law exempting some aviation companies like Kestrel from paying property taxes. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

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According to town records, Brunswick is expected to collect more than $450,000 in property taxes from tenants of Brunswick Landing this year. Kestrel Aeroworks' tax bill represents more than 25 percent of the anticipated collections.

The LePage administration's proposal sets up potential tension in Brunswick's legislative delegation. All four members are Democrats, but one, Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, said Wednesday that he supports the Republican administration's proposal.

He said that if some airports are granting exemptions for operations similar to Kestrel, the company could leave Brunswick for another location.

Kestrel now pays the redevelopment authority $200,000 per year to lease 85,000 square feet at Brunswick Landing.

"My position is that the way they're treated in one town is the way they should be treated in all towns," Gerzofsky said.

Gerzofsky's statement won't surprise some town officials, who have long suspected the longtime lawmaker of blocking Brunswick's efforts to have more say in the future of base.

Gerzofsky acknowledged Wednesday that he has submitted legislation this year designed to prevent cities and towns from blocking redevelopment efforts.

He said the legislation isn't specific to Brunswick. He would not provide specifics, but denied rumors that his bill would strip the town of its taxing power at Brunswick Landing.

Brunswick now has control over tax exemptions at the former base. The town shelved a request by the redevelopment authority this fall to authorize a tax increment financing package that would return $20 million in property taxes to the authority.

That followed tension over a provision in one of LePage's supplemental budgets that would have forced Brunswick to approve the TIF plan. The administration removed the provision, but not before town officials cried foul.

"We have to find a way to be more collaborative," Gerzofsky said. "Sometimes you have to create laws to make people more collaborative."

He said, "We have to get rid of what I call narrow thinking. A town can only think of its borders, but a base closing has regional impacts."

Details of Gerzofsky's bill won't be become public until it is printed.

 

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

twitter/stevemistler

 

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