Maine’s Cities And Towns Seem To Have Run Out Of Other People’s Money

Benton, Maine town meeting

Benton, Maine town meetingThe state budget battle has forced Fairfield and other communities throughout central Maine to deal with looming cuts to municipal revenue sharing, a scenario many town leaders hoped wouldn’t happen. Less than two weeks before a potential state shutdown created by an ongoing budget battle between Gov. Paul LePage and state lawmakers, towns are deciding whether to raise taxes, cut services or raid their surplus funds to meet projected budget gaps. In order to meet tax commitment deadlines, some towns are scrambling to solve the problem of large budget gaps without dropping a last-minute tax increase on residents. In January, LePage proposed that municipal revenue sharing be eliminated as a strategy to help balance the state budget, raising an outcry from municipalities that have relied on the funding since it was first mandated by law 40 years ago. In the months that followed, towns were forced to craft budgets without knowing what state money, if any, they could rely on. Rather than assume a dramatic revenue loss, many towns built their budgets based on the same level of state revenue that they got last year. Towns got a dramatic wake-up call last week when the Legislature approved a budget that still included significant cuts to revenue sharing. LePage has said he will veto the bill, and if the Legislature does not override it, the state could go into a shutdown on July 1. (keep reading at Kennebec Journal)