Freeport Town Council takes stand on referendum questions

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FREEPORT — With Election Day less than a month away, Town Councilors took a stand Tuesday on three statewide referendums questions: repeal of school consolidation, excise tax reduction and limits on state and local government spending.

Councilors unanimously opposed Question 2 to reduce the excise tax. The referendum would result in a $600,000 cut in revenue to Freeport, and Town Manager Dale Olmstead said the money would have to be made up in staff cuts, property tax increases or fewer road repairs.

The referendum would not remove the excise tax, but would provide benefits to owners of newer cars and energy-efficient cars. For owners of cars more than 5 years old, there are no tax benefits.

Councilors voted 5-2 in support of Question 3, repeal of the school consolidation law. Repealing the law would not end school consolidation as it is now, they said, but may give towns the option to create cooperative agreements and alternative solutions to school governance.

Councilors Jim Cassida and Genie Beaulieu voted against the resolution. Both said it is too soon to repeal the law without giving communities time to find cost savings or to see if consolidation is successful. But other councilors said consolidation is an unsuccessful law because of the budget validation referendums, lack of cost savings and increase in taxes.

Finally, councilors were nearly split on Question 4, the referendum that would put limits on state and local government. They voted 4-3 in opposition to the so-called TABOR II referendum, which would change current spending and property tax limits and would impose voter approval for all expenditures and tax increases above the growth limit.

Councilors Charlotte Bishop, Joe Migliaccio and Chairman Rich DeGrandpre voted in support of TABOR II. The other councilors voted to oppose the referendum, and said budgeting by referendum is costly and a bad idea and less efficient than local control by representative government.

Beaulieu said she believes the council’s votes are representative of the general population’s opinion, and urged voters to educate themselves on all the referendum questions.

In other business, the council announced an upcoming meeting with representatives of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Marine Resources, Wolfe’s Neck Farm, the Shellfish Commission and the Conservation Commission to discuss and resolve ongoing disagreements between clammers and the farm.

“Hopefully we can bridge this gap,” he said. “The town has an interest in both industries and wants them to succeed.”

The meeting will be Thursday, Oct. 29, at 5:30 p.m. in the Community Center.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or