Hearings coming on Freeport shellfish and taxes

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FREEPORT — The municipal budget may take center stage at next Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, but tax breaks and shellfish licenses will also be subjects of discussion.

A new ordinance creating an excise tax exemption for active military personnel and revisions to the shellfish ordinance will receive public hearings at the 7 p.m. meeting on May 15.

The tax measure would allow the town to adopt a state law that took effect Jan. 1 as a nonbinding measure. The law refers specifically to excise taxes paid on vehicles and aircraft.

Residents who are active military personnel permanently stationed outside Maine or on a deployment of more than 180 days can be exempted from paying aircraft and vehicle excise taxes, but local governments most vote to enact the law.

In a memo to Town Manager Dale Olmstead, Town Planner Donna Larson said the “the town has no way of knowing how many residents would be eligible for this exemption.”

Revisions to the shellfish ordinance scheduled for a public hearing include a new license classification, an expansion of the available number of student licenses, and a reduction of some license fees.

The revisions drafted by the seven-member Shellfish Committee are part of the legislative effort to restore and restock local shellfish beds. Councilors have also heard details of a $100,000 plan to protect shellfish stocks from predators as part of the fiscal 2013 capital improvements budget.

The ordinance revisions call for creating a new “senior” commercial shellfishing license issued at no cost to residents or nonresidents who are at least 70 years old. For every senior license issued, a residential commercial license would also become available.

Fees for recreational shellfish licenses for seniors will be waived as well.

Available student licenses for residents between ages 12 and 22 would be tripled from three to nine under the proposed changes. Fees for the licenses would be reduced from $100 annually to $25 annually. A nonresident student shellfishing license is also available, and its fee could be reduced from $200 annually to $50.

Students obtaining the licenses must show they are attending school and spend at least 10 hours helping survey clam flats. College students holding student licenses must show a course load of at least 12 credits per semester.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.