2017-08-24 / Letters

City suffers from lack of communication

To the editor:

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

– George Bernard Shaw

Saco Citizens for Sensible Government has long stated that transparency is an issue with Saco city government. We have also noted that communication is amiss. To be effective, communication requires the who, what, when, why and how to be shared. In many cases costs need to be disclosed.

Recently, city administration decided to not submit the fiscal year 2018 tax bills on the pretext that state funding was not known at the time. Clearly, this was not communicated to anyone nor posted on the city website until Saco Citizens for Sensible Government alerted the public.

Only then did the city post the news later that day.

More importantly, this was a clear violation of city code and state statutes. There is also a cost associated with this delay, one of several the taxpayers have endured under this administration. By now, most of us have received our tax bills with the usual increase. When will the city divulge the year end financials?

Saco Citizens for Sensible Government anticipates that, once again, a very substantial surplus will occur, dollars that could have been applied to reduce the tax levy and/ or school debt. It would appear that no tax relief is in the cards.

As for the issue of the delayed tax bills, three elements are required. First, the assessor is required by April 1 to determine the assessed value of Saco properties. Ownership changes, new construction values, growth etc. are recognized. The tax list is then prepared per state Statute 36 M.R.S.A.&709. The assessor also determines the mil rate for the ensuing year by the second week in July.

The tax collector prepares tax bills once the certified list of assessed properties is received from the assessor. The bills are to be mailed by the second week in July. This did not occur.

What is of concern to Saco Citizens for Sensible Government is the failure of the city to operate under the provisions of policy and law. This appears to be a common occurrence with this administration. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government has called attention to these shortcomings on numerous occasions.

What is the impact of the delay? Staff time is increased, public angst for the delay, lost investment interest, and loss of confidence in city management. A simple solution would have been to follow the normal process to render the tax bills. Once the state revenue is known, the city could act on a supplemental appropriation. The second half tax mailings would then reflect the adjustment thus lowering the mil rate.

When will the administration follow proper processes and communicate what is going on with our government?

John Harkins, chairman Saco Citizens for Sensible Government

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