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Citizens Tax Group Calls for 25% Reduction

in Property Taxes in Fort Fairfield


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, March 10, 2021


   A member of the Citizen's Tax Group (CTG) of Fort Fairfield told the Fort Fairfield Journal that Councilman, Scott Smith's speech at the February 17 council meeting has given many people hope that all is not lost for the taxpayers in the ongoing discussion about Fort Fairfield's excessive increase in property taxes for many taxpayers in town.   “There was loud applauding from the whole audience - the only reaction from the audience during the entire meeting,” said the CTG member.  “He spoke out at length about the ways that there were to trim costs and not lose services.  We just have to do things a little differently.  We are aware that he has worked hard on this by talking to several citizens and others that are experts in their fields.  We are told that the Council doesn’t want to discuss those options and have said that he is just causing turmoil in the community.  Mr. Smith has really gone out on a limb to help the taxpayers.  Such a wonderful model for the other Council members who might not know how to do this!”

   The CTG member also noted how there appeared to be an out of character “show of force” at the February council meeting.  “It occurs to me that you may not have been able to see the shameful ‘show of force’ towards townspeople from watching the video.  The uniformed people with badges all came out together as a group, as the meeting was about to start and took their positions all around the audience.  You can't see the line of these people on the right side of the auditorium in the [video]  recording. They were not police, but appeared to be on duty.  It felt like a deliberate attempt to intimidate citizens from coming up to the mic.  Some townspeople have told us that they felt that this display of at least a dozen uniformed men with badges on their chests standing at attention all around the people for the entire meeting felt like some sort of convoluted effort to intimidate townspeople from coming up to the microphone to speak during the public comment period.  These 'guests' at our meeting, some of whom we did not recognize as even being from our town, could have been asked to sit in chairs with the rest of us businessmen, Amish, farmers, and old people.  Shameful.”

   Town manager, Andrea Powers told the Fort Fairfield Journal that only one police officer was actually present during the February meeting - Sgt. Ryan Eagles, from Fort Fairfield PD and the rest of the uniformed individuals were from Fort Fairfield Fire/Rescue.

   Acknowledging the town council is bound by a State-mandated formula for setting a mil rate, this CTG member further elucidated, “This mandate would indicate that the town budget could be any amount, to the moon, and it would not affect the mill rate.  The State simply tells the town what that rate has to be.   I went to the Maine State Laws online and found a packet of information in the Assessors section to be used to assist towns.”

   The CTG member cited the MAINE REVENUE SERVICES - 2020 MUNICIPAL TAX RATE CALCULATION STANDARD FORM. “This appears to be exactly like what Ms. Powers is referring to.  A town simply fills in their numerical data and voila!  In line 17: Minimum Tax Rate and line 18: Maximum Tax Rate.”

   “The omission:  The input in line 10, Local Education or school budget is what you would expect to find. But then line 8, Municipal Appropriations, the town budget value, is also put in.  All of these expenses are inputs into formulas that this sheet is using to spit out a mill rate.”

   “It is inaccurate to tell people that the State sets the mill rate.  The Town Budget along with other town expenses are what set the mill rate.  If we bring the budget amount back down, then the “formula” will suggest that we have a lower mill rate.”

   The CTG of Fort Fairfield is requesting the town council explore ways to reduce the town's annual budget in the upcoming budget year to bring property taxes down by approximately 25 percent.



By Taxpayers of Fort Fairfield, Maine


February 17, 2021

   As everyone is aware, the Town Budget for 2020-2021 was approximately $6,800,000.  That amount is about 20% more than the previous year.  This was done without the taxpayers being informed of the huge property tax increase that this would require.

   Many families in our town are facing extreme financial hardships due this being a poor community with little employment, many of the citizens being elderly, and especially this year due to the pandemic. 

    Our property tax mill rate is 20.5.  The average tax mill rate for all communities in Maine is 16.9. Our rate is 21% above the State average.  We are requesting on behalf of all taxpayers that the next budget for 2021-2022 be reduced to eventually bring our mill rate down to the State average of 16.9.

   If our town is going to be required to calculate taxes based on 100% of the full assessed valuations, then we feel that we have the right to have our mill rate be in line with the State average.

   We request that the Council meet to discuss our proposal, come up with a plan of action, and return the results back to us at the next Council meeting in March.

Thank you.

The Taxpayers of Fort Fairfield


[A letter, read to the town council during the Public Comment portion of the Fort Fairfield February Town Council Meeting]


To Whom It May Concern:

   We moved our family to Fort Fairfield in August 2007.  We chose the Fort Fairfield/Easton area for a number of reasons, among them was the friendly folks with old fashioned values.  We have been made to feel welcome and accepted as part of the local community.

   As time went by, I found Fort Fairfield to be everything and more than we had hoped for.  We learned to trust that our tax money was spent wisely and clearly the people in charge had as much concern on how they spent the taxpayer’s money, as if they were spending their own.

   I can truthfully say that I have never lived in a town that it felt as good to be a part of as the town of Fort Fairfield.  There are now 41 Amish families in the Fort/Easton area.  Much has been added to the tax base.

   However, something is changing.  Our taxes have gone up dramatically.  We are now no longer sure that we can stay here and turn over our farm to the next generation. 

   Traditionally, we would build a small retirement house on the farm for us to live out the rest of our lives while one of the family takes over the rest of the farm and buildings.  With taxes as high as they now are, and we add a retirement home, a young couple will either have to find a higher paying occupation or they cannot afford to live here.  I hope there is a way that taxes can be reduced to a sustainable level.

   Thank You,

Noah Yoder

Fort Fairfield