Cumberland Town Council candidates agree on need for expanded tax base
CUMBERLAND — Incumbent Town Councilors Stephen Moriarty and Michael Perfetti face a challenge from Sally Leavitt in the June 8 election.
The race for the two, three-year seats is Cumberland’s only contested election this spring.
James Bailinson of Friar Lane is running unopposed for his seat on the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors, where he is the vice chairman. Since Susan Campbell has chosen not to run again, William Dunnett of Mulberry Lane is uncontested in a bid to replace Susan Campbell, who is not seeking re-election to the board.
In interviews, all three Town Council candidates cited the importance of alleviating the tax burden on residents by broadening Cumberland’s tax base.
Leavitt, 53, has lived in Cumberland nearly all her life. A Morgan Lane resident and member of the Cumberland Taxpayers Association, she works as an operations manager for the Roosevelt Trail Nursery and Garden Center in Windham.
The Town Council would be her first elected office.
“I have a lot of concerns about what’s happening to the town, and I have the time and energy to hopefully be part of the solution,” Leavitt said.
She said one of the most important and challenging issues she sees Cumberland facing is rising taxes, “and Cumberland has a very limited tax base. The majority of our budget is funded on residential property taxes. We don’t have enough commercial development to make a difference.”
Whether it is through greater commercial development or finding new revenue sources, Leavitt said “we’ve got to alleviate that dependence on residential property taxes to fund our expenses.”
She said many of the people she has spoken with in recent months have expressed concern about being forced out of their homes because they cannot afford increasing taxes.
As a newcomer to the council, Leavitt said, “I think I could bring a different perspective than maybe some of the other folks. Being a fourth-generation resident, my family has had a lot of history in town, and I think that can play an important part.”
Moriarty, 60, of Blanchard Road, is married and has two daughters. A 27-year resident of Cumberland, he is an attorney at Norman, Hanson & DeTroy in Portland.
Moriarty first served two terms on the Town Council from 1987 to 1993, then was elected in November 1997 to finish the last six months of an unexpired term. Since then he has served four full terms.
“I think the next three years are going to be a critically important period of transition for the town,” Moriarty said, asserting that in the past three years the town has laid a foundation for the development of a more diverse tax base and economic development.
Moriarty cited the extension of public water to West Cumberland, zoning changes along the Route 100 corridor in that area of town and the hiring of an economic development director as examples of laying that foundation.
“What I want to do is to assist in the promotion of economic development in our existing commercial zones, to help broaden the tax base and to alleviate some of the pressure upon the residential taxpayer,” he said. “It promises to be a fairly exciting and challenging time, and I’d simply like to finish up the work that we’ve engaged in up to this point.”
Moriarty said the provision of services that people demand at a price they can afford continues to be important, and he thinks the town has been successful in that regard with four consecutive relatively flat budgets.
“I’d like to see us continue on that trend, specifically with reference to consolidating positions within the town,” Moriarty said, “continually monitoring our needs for staffing and personnel, and determining what combination of services best meets the needs of the people.”
Perfetti, 36, of Main Street, is completing his first term on the Town Council. He is a product line manager with Cape Shore in Yarmouth, a company that sells gift ware in the vacation market. He and his wife have three children.
Perfetti said he thinks the Town Council has worked hard in recent years to keep the budget in check, and that he supports the town’s goal of broadening its tax base with projects on Route 1 and Route 100.
“We need to make sure that we’re in a position, that when the economy does turn around ... we’re ready for that,” he said. “I want to be a part of making that happen.”
Perfetti noted that the town is in the midst of a comprehensive look at its Main Street area. Both he and Moriarty are council liaisons to the Town Center Advisory Committee.
“We’re now just heading into this public discussion phase,” Perfetti said, adding that he wants to be involved with seeing that through.
Another issue Perfetti raised is the limited availability of funds to invest in the town’s infrastructure, which he said can be a pro and con.
“Sometimes that’s good, that ... you don’t have all the money in the world,” he said, “because then it makes you really focus on what is important, and you really have to prioritize, and you really have to do a good job of investing the funds you do have available.”
He added, though, that “I guess I worry that 25 years down the road, will we have made the investments and repairs and choices that we should have made?”
When considering how to spend town funds, Perfetti said, “I treat it like it’s all of (the residents’) money, because it is.”
Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or email@example.com.