Patrick Lefebvre: Clearing up misinformation before town meeting

To the editor:

It is time for us to clear up the misinformation that is being spread before Town Meeting. First the Recreation Revolving Fund, the Board of Selectmen voted to leave this fund as is. Since the Budget Committee did not agree with this, the Chair asked the Finance Director to help him write a warrant article to change the fund to what the Budget Committee wanted it to be. TM Frost offered to help as well. Waddell gave Frost the changes he wanted to see and she produced a draft warrant article for review. It was concurrently sent to Town Counsel for review. The attorney did not assist in writing the article, contrary to what Waddell has insisted. At subsequent meetings, it was reported that Frost had yet to hear from Town Counsel. The opinion letter was received around 4 p.m. on that day of the Public Hearing on the budget. At the public hearing, the attorney’s letter was dismissed as “just one opinion.” Further, and again contrary to the information that is being shared, the Board of Selectmen voted down the request to purchase a new plow truck for $38k and has since, by a 2-1 vote with Lefebvre voting against, said that the Rec Director could look at purchasing the truck that the Water and Sewer Department will be replacing for a sum up to $10k.
With regard to the operating budget, Oliver and Lefebvre stand behind their concern about there not being enough money in the budget for administration if Frost is no longer at Town Hall this spring, LaPierre voted for the budget as presented by the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee Chair threw out a number, unsubstantiated, of $30k and that was disputed by Lefebvre, who said that the number would be closer to $100,000. The committee then said $40k, which will cover the severance package for Frost, but not anything going forward, like recruitment and salary for an interim administrator. Since there is no method for the Board to vote a different amount, the only alternative to express their concern was to vote to not recommend the entire article. Depending on the outcome of the question on the ballot, Oliver and/or Lefebvre will attempt to adjust this figure on the Town Meeting floor.
As far as the claims that the Town Manager and Selectmen were withholding information from the Budget Committee, there is a written opinion from the very attorney who was chosen by Waddell to answer his questions, that states the Budget Committee should not be asking for certain types of information; that it is out of the scope of their duties. Waddell was told this by the attorney, but chose not to share that information with the rest of the committee. There was more discussion about policy at the Budget Committee meetings than there was about the actual budgets to run the Town.
The other information that is out there is clearly meant to scare the taxpayers and is very misleading. While it is important to note that Waddell’s claim that the full value tax rate could climb during a revaluation is true, it is even more important to note that the full value tax rate is not what your taxes are based on. The full value tax rate takes the equalized valuation into consideration, not our true valuation, which is higher due in no small part to the utility values we have been able to stabilize and secure into future years through tough negotiations. The valuation used for the actual tax rate used in the calculations of your taxes is higher, thereby making the tax rate lower. In any case, the issue is moot as the newest equalization ratio is 97.3, not 110.
Finally, in the great news department, the Board and Town Manager are working cooperatively with Bob Chapman and others to bring sustainable businesses into Gorham. These are already established businesses that will continue to grow their jobs capacity while relocating to Gorham. Where businesses take root, other businesses will also be drawn.
We hope this clears up some of the misinformation that is out there. Additionally, we now have the capability to video record and stream all public meetings in Town Government and these will be available on the Town’s website. This is in an effort to curtail bad information being circulated through town. You can watch for yourselves and get the real picture. Please don’t hesitate to contact us or the Town Manager if you have any questions at all and please get out and vote on March 14!
Gorham Board of Selectmen
Grace LaPierre
Terry Oliver
Patrick Lefebvre