Portland’s school superintendent and city manager have some hard choices to make. Forecasting a 4 percent increase translates into an additional $248 to a taxpayer bill for a home assessed at $250,000, as reported by the Portland Press Herald. Recent property tax increases (3.1, 3.0, 3.1 and last year 2.3 percent) with a 4 percent increase results in a five-year increase of 20.9 percent compounded. Shouldn’t our City Council require serious expense cuts?

Only Brunswick and Frye Island had tax rates higher in Cumberland County than Portland’s .02111 per $1,000 of valuation in 2016. At that time Gorham, South Portland, Falmouth, Scarborough and Westbrook had tax rates that ranged from .01509 to .01840, considerably lower than Portland’s. The current rate is .02165 for Portland. In addition, fees shouldered by taxpayers are $140 annually for trash pickup using one blue bag weekly and $144 more for stormwater infrastructure.

Expenditures need cutting and changes need to be made to tax-exempt property. Some examples: school enrollment for 2018 at Cliff and Peaks Island is 40 students. The 2019 recommended budget is $840,623 for the two schools. Isn’t it time to ferry these students to the mainland, sell the properties and get them on the tax rolls? Public school enrollment dropped from 7,065 students in 2008 to 6,739 in 2017, but the number of school employees increased from 1,150 to 1,213 during the same period. And did the city really need to increase the number of recreation employees from 84 to 116 last year?

Also harmful to taxpayers is that commercial and industrial property assessments dropped $106 million, while tax-exempt values increased $394 million between 2008 and 2017. That’s half a billion dollars wiped from the taxable property base. How are taxpayers benefitting?

It’s time for homeowners’ consideration!

Stephen (Steve) Kirby

Portland


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