KENNEBUNK – Landowners will get a bit of a reprieve on paying the second half of their property taxes.

Originally due April 3, the new due date is May 1.

Kennebunk Select Board members voted to change the date when they met Tuesday, March 24, citing fallout from the coronavirus that has, or may, cause economic hardship.

Kennebunk, like many Maine communities, has two dates when property taxes are due, the first in the fall, the second in the spring.

About 60 percent of Kennebunk’s property taxes flow in automatically twice a year, as property owners escrow money for payments, estimated Finance Director Joel Downs. The practice is often associated with banks and other companies that offer mortgage loans and require taxes be escrowed as part of the mortgage contract.

That leaves 40 percent of the tax payments that arrive from landowners who do not pay through financial institutions.

With non-essential businesses shuttering because of state rules associated with attempts to halt the spread of COVID-19, and unemployment on the rise, Select Board members felt deferring the second payment would be of assistance to property owners.

The board briefly considered 60- and 90-day deferment, and asked Downs about the possible financial impact.

Downs said he would be more comfortable with 60 days, rather than 90.

The meeting was virtual for all but six of the seven Select Board members, the town manager, town clerk, and IT personnel, in keeping with gatherings of 10 or fewer. The board used a new system for the first time that night, which allowed people to participate remotely.

Resident John Costin, speaking by telephone, suggested leaving the due date in place and consider dealing with interest and enforcement, instead.

“For those able to pay the taxes, why change (the date),” Costin asked.

“People who are not in hardship now could well be, in 30 days,” said Select Board member Shiloh Schulte, who was present by teleconference.

Downs said the accounting system is driven by due dates, and making changes other than with the date could cause a great deal of work for staff. As well, he said forgiving interest might have to come to the Select Board on an individual basis.

If the board went with a 30-day extension, they could address the matter at its April 14 meeting, if they felt another extension was called for, Downs pointed out.

The board agreed to a 30-day extension.

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