By Diana Bowley of the News Staff - DEXTER - The possibility of "mothballing" the historic old Town Hall, selling the municipal skating rink, deeding the Hewitt medical building back to HAD 4 and consolidating parks and recreation with public works are under consideration by the Dexter Town Council.
These recommendations are not eagerly embraced by the council, but drastic measures have to be taken to bring the budget under the tax cap imposed by LD 1, according to acting Town Manager Dave Pearson.
Budget deliberations will continue at 6:30 p.m. tonight in the council chambers. A budget will be adopted by the council on July 14.
Town officials deeply cut the municipal spending plan last year, worried that the Palesky tax-cap initiative would pass, Pearson said Monday. The tax-cap initiative would have capped property taxes at 1 percent of 1997 valuations.
When Palesky's initiative failed, the Legislature adopted its own property tax relief package.
Town officials didn't anticipate that the Legislature's bill would cap this year's municipal budget to last year's spending plan of $1,097,997 with a 4.61 percent growth increase. That sets the total municipal budget at $1,148,615.
"The council cut $223,000 last year to make it look like we were holding the line so people wouldn't vote for Palesky. Now we're torn between the devil and the deep blue sea," Pearson said.
In essence, LD 1 rewards those towns that spent a lot of money last year and punishes those who did not, he said. Another whammy is that those towns with fiscal years from January to December are exempted from the tax cap this year, while municipalities such as Dexter that operate from July to June are not, Pearson said.
"It just doesn't strike me as fair," Pearson explained. He has been told verbally that a waiver request he filed with the state based on those issues was denied.
There is a provision in LD 1 that allows towns and schools to increase the tax levy if residents approve it during a town meeting or referendum vote.
Rather, the Town Council is looking to reduce the budget, according to Chairman Peter Haskell.
"LD 1 really worked against us," Haskell said.
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