There is a move underway from the LePage administration and the new Legislature to defund Public Law 598, a measure requiring county jails be funded by the General Fund.

Should defunding occur, Cumberland County’s property taxes would rise by 10 percent to support the jail’s requirements – and that’s just the beginning, as the jail’s responsibility broadens to treat more and more of the inmates’ mental health issues.

Still, Cumberland County is in a better position than most counties throughout the state, which would see their property tax rates rise by as much as 24 percent.

Currently, Cumberland County operates with 90 percent of the tax revenues it collects; the other 10 percent goes to fund the Cross Insurance Arena, which is the responsibility of a separate governmental entity.

When you add an additional 10 percent for jails, the county now operates on 80 percent of the property tax revenues it collects.

Excuse me. We’ve seen this movie before, with school funding in our local communities. The state refuses to fund the required 50 percent of local education and thus negatively impacts rents, leases and homeownership.

It’s up to us whether we grab our wallet and dish out an additional 10 percent in county property tax or require the state to carry out its fiscal responsibility. It’s not a matter of who pays – we do. It’s a matter of which “tax bucket” supports the county jail system: your General Fund, which contains mostly income and sales tax revenue, or your local property tax.

You can help county jails get state funding by just telling your legislator that you support Public Law 598.

It’s your decision: Pay for county jails through income and sales taxes, or pay for them through property taxes. It’s up to you.

Stephen Gorden

North Yarmouth