Lemois calls for one tax bill, but Ouellette says it should wait

Lemois calls for one tax bill, but Ouellette says it should wait

CUMBERLAND – Former Cumberland Fire Committee Chairman Bruce Lemois, running to retake a seat he lost two years ago, is reviving the idea of having one tax bill for town and fire taxes.

“Having one tax bill will allow our residents the convenience of monitoring their tax bill while allowing their mortgage company to escrow the two taxes together,” he said. “We had explored this option back in 2016 but it was not the correct time for the town.”

Lemois said he's spoken with the town's next mayor, Jeff Mutter, and Mutter has agreed to work with the Fire Committee to review the issue.

Some incumbent members of the Fire Committee aren't convinced that now is the time to make such a dramatic change in how residents are taxed.

“I have been in favor of one tax, but not at this time,” said Chairwoman Cindy Ouellette. “There is so much to factor into a changeover, and I don't feel like we are prepared for it right now. I want to see it done thoughtfully.”

Facing ongoing financial troubles, spending in the combined Cumberland Fire District is expected to bring maximum 4 percent tax increases for as many as five years. The Valley Breeze reported in June that unexpected overtime spending due to 11 injured on duty claims had helped lead to a maximum tax increase for the district.

In February, fire commissioners were still discussing the possibility of going out to bond this fall for construction of a new Fire Station 2, but those talks were discarded two months later when officials announced that overtime bills were more than $400,000 over budget and that state finance officials had gotten involved.

Asked if part of the motivation behind reviving the proposal for one bill is so residents might not notice the impact of tax increases, Lemois said absolutely not, and that by having the district present its budget to the town, even though the town wouldn't ultimately approve it, it would give the public a “detailed understanding of how the Fire Department is being run.”

Mutter this week confirmed that he had a conversation with Lemois about the idea, and said he's willing to look at any such proposal to see if it works.

Asked to respond to Ouellette's concerns, Lemois said his goal is to have the town and CFD come together and give the idea of one tax bill “the complete review it deserves.” Next year might not be the year it happens, he said, but the idea has never been completely discussed.

“I respect Chairwoman Ouellette and understand she feels now isn’t the right time for this to happen, but first we must give the one tax bill issue the complete financial and legal review so we can know if it is the best for our town,” he said.

 Incumbent Commissioner Paul Santoro said he agrees “100 percent” with Ouellette that this isn't the time to combine bills. He said the district has a limited number of staff members to work on such a project and an ever-present need to have tax revenues in hand as quickly as possible.

“We can't wait for the potential delay of the money coming from the town to the Fire Department,” he said.

Santoro said he previously had a discussion with Mayor Bill Murray about the idea, and Murray said he would be in favor of the move if feasible. A move to one bill is a good future goal to have, he said, but now is "too early, too soon.”

Lemois said he's committed to the best service for residents and bringing both finance departments together, along with any legal review needed, to ensure that taxpayers are served well. He projected savings for the Fire Department from the change, which he said could potentially help the district limit tax increases going forward.

Comments

Good lord, small things like this that linger for years are maddening. Just get it done. Nearly every town next door in MA bills this as one tax bill. Get it done and move on to the long list of other things we could do better.

Stop it , 11 injured? Something doesn't sound right to me. Are we taking turns . This isn"t Providence it is Cumberland. Must of went to Rodney's doctor Dr Vinny Boombotz . Give me a break 20% over 5 years . Taxpayers are not your personal bank.

No disrespect to Mr. Lemois's proposal about one tax bill because it really is what the residents want BUT the fire department needs to gets its house in order.

Maybe it is time for an impartial review by Ken Block of the contracts in place to see if there is any abuse of the overtime?

If I recall correctly, some firefighters are being injured on rescue calls. Not for nothing but all the income from rescue calls goes to the town coffers.

Shouldn't that income be split between the fire department and the town? After all both departments are responding and its documented that some of the firefighters are getting injured on those calls.

Maybe the fire department should also be billing these rescue calls as well and see what happens?

Having one tax bill is great for budgeting your household but I believe many would get really mad thinking town taxes went up 4 plus percent when it was the fire department doing that year after year.

I think in the past, a firefighter on a 24 hour shift had it broken into two shifts where they could call in sick for the first shift and then be well enough to be called in for another firefighter being sick for the second half of the shift and there by because of call back getting time and a half for the shift they should have worked in the first place.

Time for a Ken Block style of audit because there are no savings from the merger at all.

Maybe incoming mayor Mutter should take a real look at this proposal and get an impartial review.

Ken Block is not really an independent study. He typically has an agenda and searches for it. The three platoon nightmare was case and point. Don’t have rose colored glasses.

While tying all the taxes together into one bill may sound like a viable option Mr. Lemois is hiding the four percent rate increases in the larger tax bill for the next four years. After a year people won't realize why their fire taxes mixed with town taxes have increased.

The IOD personnel do need to be compensated but we need to look at the injuries and see if they could have been mitigated through the use of technology like gurneys that auto lift patients or by other means of how and why the accidents occurred.

I prefer a single tax bill for the Fire Dept. because I budget for it that way. The Fire Dept. doesn't allow a tax break for households that pay their bills in one payment.

I see that Woonsocket is cracking down on people who register their cars out of state and live there, why don't we do that as well? WE should all be paying our fair share. Plenty in my neighborhood, sure they are all over Town.

Mr. Dosdourian,

No where in the article do I mention tax increases. I don't have the power to hide anything, nor is it on MY mind.

The CFD budget is posted on line and is presented yearly in the same fashion as the Town's. Having one tax bill could put the CFD budget under further review.

If we were to combine the two tax bills you WOULD THEN have the break for paying in one payment as the Towns' policies would stay in effect.

All these questions are good; and is exactly why I am calling for this issue to be given the financial and legal review for the first time.

Thanks!

why wait?

"There is so much to factor into a changeover"

I am not sure what she means. But the changeover is good for homeowners, who can include the tax in their month's mortgage payments and that should probably trump everything else.