BRUNSWICK — Town officials are uncertain about a bill proposed by state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, that would provide Brunswick with a new revenue source.
Town Manager Gary Brown on Monday said the town expressed a stance neither for nor against a few weeks ago when a public hearing was held on LD 1179, “An Act To Create the Brunswick Landing Job Increment Financing Fund.”
“And at the time of the public hearing, two amendments were proposed by the (LePage) administration and neither of those would benefit the town of Brunswick,” Brown said.
If the bill passes, the town would receive annual payments from a fund created from net state income tax generated by new jobs at Brunswick Landing. The town would have to use the payments “to cover municipal costs attributable to the development of the base area,” and the fund would sunset by 2025.
The “job increment transfer funds,” as they are called, would go to the town after a required amount is paid to qualified Pine Tree Development Zone businesses and the Brunswick Naval Air Station Job Increment Financing Fund.
The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority and Southern Maine Community College are recipients of payments from the Brunswick Naval Air Station Job Increment Financing Fund, which was established in 2009.
Gerzofsky and town officials don’t always see eye to eye, but the senator said he doesn’t understand why the town isn’t backing a bill that could bring in extra revenue at a time when Brunswick is facing state funding cuts.
“Everything I’ve heard, I didn’t hear anything positive,” Gerzofsky said. “It sounds like to me the town doesn’t choose to support it. I don’t know why.”
Gerzofsky said the bill contains language similar to legislation that created the Loring Job Increment Financing Fund in 1995, which provided extra revenue for the town of Limestone after the closing of Loring Air Force Base.
One major difference, however, is that Limestone can use revenue from the Loring Job Increment Financing Fund to fund the costs of municipal services with few, if any, limitations.
LD 1179 lists clear restrictions for Brunswick. The town would have to use the revenue “to cover municipal costs attributable to the development of the base area.”
Gerzofsky said the revenue could be used to expand the tax base by making improvements in commercial areas, like Cook’s Corner, that would attract more businesses. He said that would help the town increase its property tax revenue over time.
But Brown remains unsure of the bill, which has a proposed amendment from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development that would require the DECD commissioner to sign off on payments to the town.
He said the town opposes the amendment, along with the suggestion that the town should use the revenue for economic development purposes for Brunswick Landing.
“What’s the level of revenue (Gerzofsky) expects to generate and how does he expect it will benefit Brunswick, when it has to go to the commissioner’s approval?” Brown said. “Isn’t it better served giving the money to MRRA instead?”
Gerzofsky said the DECD’s proposed amendment is likely legal language that was supposed to be included in the bill when it was drafted in the revisor’s office.
“I think that’s normal language,” he said, but he did emphasize that despite the current language of the bill, the revenue could be used for economic development purposes for areas around, and not just within, Brunswick Landing.
Executive Director Steve Levesque said MRRA has not taken a position on the bill.
“It didn’t directly relate to us, and given the sensitivities, we just stayed out of it,” Levesque said. “… No one has asked MRRA to take any position on it.”
The bill is expected to go to a work session within the next few weeks.