A $22.96 tax bill sent from Manchester to West Gardiner for a school bus turnaround used by both towns prompted West Gardiner selectmen to fire off a terse letter that suggested it could fight back by charging new fees of its own.
The Pond Road parcel in Manchester is used by buses picking up students in West Gardiner and Manchester and was built by West Gardiner at a cost of $2,300 on the 12-acre lot near the Manchester/West Gardiner town line, the letter signed by West Gardiner’s three selectmen says.
West Gardiner also plows and sands the short stretch of road between the turnaround and the town line. The letter said West Gardiner officials were “disappointed” that Manchester has chosen to charge an annual property tax of $22.96 for the property, and it warns West Gardiner could bill Manchester for the use of the turnaround, and plowing and sanding of that section of road.
“We do not charge your town for using our turnaround,” the letter signed by Gregory Couture, Merton Hickey and Randall Macomber says. “Also, we currently plow and sand from the turnaround to the town line. Perhaps you should abate our taxes. We could start to charge for the use of our property and for plowing and sanding of your road.”
E. Patrick Gilbert, Manchester’s town manager, said Manchester started charging West Gardiner property taxes on the parcel in 2014, after an auditor from Maine Revenue Services advised the town that the parcel, owned by West Gardiner but located in Manchester, could not be labeled a municipal property because it is not a Manchester municipal property. Municipal properties are exempt from property taxes.
So, starting in 2014, a tax bill was generated and sent to West Gardiner, with the property valued at $1,400.
“For years, we never taxed it, because we recognized it as tax-exempt,” Gilbert said Friday. “When that happened, in 2014, we put it on the books. We were advised we had to tax it.”
To address the issue, in a proposal that goes to selectmen in Manchester at their Tuesday meeting, Gilbert said selectmen could agree to reduce the value of the property to the lowest amount, $100, recognized by Manchester’s TRIO tax-processing system.
That would reduce the annual tax bill for the property to $1.63, Gilbert said, which would be billed to the town of West Gardiner.
But Gilbert said, if selectmen in Manchester wish, they could abate the $1.63 tax, tell West Gardiner to ignore it, or pay it out of petty funds.
“I think the board will consider doing something, recognizing that use of the property and wanting to be a good municipal neighbor,” Gilbert said. “It’s not much money. They could abate it.”
The land was sold to West Gardiner in 1999 for $2,000 by longtime West Gardiner Selectman Merton Hickey, according to Manchester tax records.
Selectmen in Manchester are scheduled to discuss the issue at their 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday at the Manchester Town Office.
Selectmen are also scheduled to discuss whether the town should adopt a moratorium temporarily banning retail recreational marijuana operations in Manchester. Gilbert said no proposal is currently on the table.
Many central Maine municipalities, including Augusta , Gardiner , Richmond , Clinton and Madison , are considering or have adopted moratoriums on recreational marijuana businesses, while officials in the town of Oakland voted to ban such businesses, long-term.
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