Conway voters amend proposed tax cap

by Christian Mower on March 7, 2014

By the narrowest of possible margins, Conway voters have rejected a proposal to implement a tax cap that would restrict budgeteers from increasing the amount of money raised by local taxes each year to 2.5 percent over the amount raised the previous year.

Instead, by a single vote of 39 to 38 at Wednesday night’s deliberative meeting at Kennett High School, voters approved an amendment proposed by Theresa Kennett to increase the 2.5 percent limit to 10 percent, effectively making the petitioned Article 27 moot. The restrictive cap was recommended by the Municipal Budget Committee and opposed by Conway Selectmen.

Kennett says she’s happy the way the vote turned out – and she proposed the amendment after hearing how difficult it would be to manage with the 2.5 percent cap, since “you really don’t know until you’re 10 months into spending your budget what your actual revenue is going to be.” She says her amendment was a way to protect voters from the tax cap – and she doesn’t believe the tax cap is appropriate for a town like Conway, with its form of government.

She hopes voters will also reject the proposed 2.5 percent tax cap article on the Conway School District warrant when final voting takes place April 8, 2014. That article (13) is also endorsed by the budget committee and opposed by the Conway School Board.

Selectmen and SAU 9 Supt. Dr. Carl Nelson have expressed concerns the tight limits would make budget planning difficult – and possibly prevent them from providing essential services.

Proponents of the restrictive cap argue it’s needed to control spending and limit the growth in property taxes. Budget Committee member Frank McCarthy spoke at the deliberative meeting in favor of the 2.5 percent cap, urging voters to reject the argument imposing it would bring a “doom and gloom” scenario to the budget planning process because it could always be overturned by voters.

Around 110 voters turned out but some had left by the time the tax cap was considered late in the nearly four hour long meeting.

A considerable amount of time was also spent discussing Article 21, the proposal to contribute $4,000 to the Carroll County Transit System Blue Loon bus service. Some opposed the article, saying they were put off by the way funds had been requested, others argued they were already supporting the bus system through federal tax dollars – and others argued the buses provide essential transportation for poor, sick and elderly people.

About $48,000 was added to the amount of the proposed operating budget – mainly to provide more money for public works activities due to the harsh winter – bringing the proposed budget amount to nearly $10,190,000.

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