Naples tables tax change, approves intersection improvements

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NAPLES — The Selectboard has indefinitely tabled a proposal to change the way the town collects personal property tax payments.

According to a guide to property tax from the Maine Municipal Association, personal property includes “tangible equipment, fixtures, machinery, etc.” while real property includes land and buildings.

Selectboard Member Rich Cebra, who also serves as a state representative, said that he consulted the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library in Augusta about how to read the relevant state taxation statute.

“The municipal officers of a municipality may, upon request of the municipal treasurer or the tax collector, require that any tax payment received from an individual as payment for any property tax be applied against outstanding or delinquent taxes due on that property in chronological order beginning with the oldest unpaid tax bill. Taxes may not be applied to a period for which an abatement request or appeal has not been resolved unless approved in writing by the taxpayer,” reads section 906 of M.R.S. Title 36 on taxation. 

As a business owner, Cebra used his own tax accounts with the town as an example.

“This says that if I have five years worth of personal property tax, you can apply it if I bring personal property tax to the oldest debt, but if I bring my real estate tax, you can’t apply that to my personal property tax, because it’s not on that property,’ Cebra said about his interpretation of the statute.

“That’s your impression,” said Selectboard Chairman Grattelo, noting that Mechanic Falls, the town where new Naples Town Manager John Hawley previously served as manager, has taken the proposed approach to personal property tax collection for years.

Grattelo said he was initially “was very much in favor” of the proposed tax collection change, but was persuaded, after a few conversations with people in town, that it may not be the only avenue.

He said that “if we reinstate a vendor license or a business license in this town — and it can only be five dollars, it doesn’t have to be a cumbersome fee — that could be our mechanism to collect personal property tax.”

Grattelo asked if the board could agree that there should be some means for the town to collect personal property taxes.

“I’m never going to agree to that,” Cebra said with a laugh. “Because the personal property tax is an immoral tax to begin with.”

“We just chose to put it on our business people, which in itself makes us a less business-friendly community,” Cebra added.

“We still have to collect personal property tax,” Grattelo responded. “And if we ignore it and not collect it from some, but collect it from others, that’s not right at all. Talk about immoral.”

Each of the four Selectboard Members present Monday night eventually voted to table the issue indefinitely, with Grattelo saying he wanted there to be a future discussion about other means of collecting personal property tax. Selectboard Member Robert Caron II was absent for the vote.

At the same meeting, the board voted 3-0 to approve an agreement with the Maine Department of Transportation to split the costs of upgrades to the intersection of Routes 302 and 35.

The $60,000 project would include adding sidewalks and crosswalks with pedestrian-accessible push buttons and would require a $30,000 town investment with matching funds from the state.

Selectboard Member Kevin Rogers abstained from the vote after suggesting that a turning lane should be added coming off of Route 35.

“There’s no reason not to do it right the first time,” Rogers said about the project.

Hawley said that he had been in touch with MDOT about the possibility of a turning lane and that there wasn’t an opportunity to include the turning lane in this agreement — but that the town had a couple of options if it wanted to pursue the lane and some point down the road.

Cebra cautioned that adding the additional lane would require some sort of land acquisition from abutting property owners, and suggested moving forward with the project as proposed in the MDOT agreement.

“We have the space and the right of way to do this,” Cebra said.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

The Naples Selectboard has indefinitely tabled a proposal to change the way it collects personal property taxes.

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