TOPSHAM — Topsham selectmen are postponing town meeting again.

The annual town meeting was initially scheduled for May but selectmen later pushed it to June. Thursday, selectmen moved it to a date to be determined.

“We don’t have a choice,” said selectmen chair David Douglass.

The June meeting was canceled because of the state’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people through to the end of August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Douglass said the town will operate under the current fiscal budget ending June 30 until a new budget is passed.

“Until we can hold a town meeting in some form, there are no pay raises, there are no additional projects to take place,” he said.

Douglass said there is an option to put the budget before voters through a referendum. The next referendum election is the primary election on July 14. That’s not an option selectmen favor.

“I have great reservations, and it would take a tremendous amount to change my mind, to put this budget to a simple yes or no at the ballot box,” Douglass said.

After the months of work by town staff and selectmen and finance committee members to put together a budget, Douglass fears not having the ability for residents to have a conversation about the proposed budget before voting. Voters unhappy with spending for one municipal department could reject the entire budget.

Selectwoman Ruth Lyons echoed Douglass’ concerns, adding that voters don’t have the option to revise the proposed department spending as they can at a town meeting.

“I really feel people need to have the chance to speak,” she said.

Selectman Matthew Nixon agreed the budget shouldn’t be subject to a yes or no vote. However, he said he feels it isn’t wise to make a definitive decision on whether or not the town will do absentee ballots until the governor provides information about whether towns will be allowed to have a town meeting.

The town meeting delay has put off selectmen’s efforts to consider temporarily waiving the interest penalty charged on late property taxes during the coronavirus public health crisis.

The due date for property taxes is set at town meeting along with the interest on late taxes. Douglass said selectmen don’t have the authority to waive them.

Selectmen agreed to put on the town meeting warrant a proposal that would allow selectmen to waive interest penalties on property taxes for up to six months after the due date when there is a declared state of emergency within the previous six months.

Douglass said while the town had a high rate of people pay their taxes as of the April 15 tax deadline, the overriding concern is for what the tax rate will be in October when property owners have to make a second tax payment.

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