Can our taxes get much higher?

By Sal Girifalco – President, LAON

Taxes always get our attention. The Lakes Association of Norway (LAON) put a lot of effort into preventing problems that have plagued many other lakes in our region, and this helps control our property tax rate. This article will talk about the possibility of higher taxes, but first some background.

If you read some of our previous articles, you know that LAON has had a busy year. Because of the dedication of a few volunteers, we were able to shift some of our budget towards inspecting visiting boats while maintaining the same level of water quality testing as in prior years. We started our Courtesy Boat Inspector program (CBI) because invasive plants are one of the biggest threats our lakes face. The fairly widely known milfoil is just one of the eleven invasive plants that are of concern for us. We have heard many horror stories from lakes all around us that include the loss of the lakes for recreation and the very high cost of responding. Other towns have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over many years trying to combat an infestation. As an association committed to preserving the health of our lakes, we are obligated to make an effort to keep harmful plants out.

Since our inspectors were stationed at Lake Pennesseewassee, some people mistakenly think this as an issue for that lake only. The experience of towns near Maine’s Arrowhead Lake proves why that is not true. Due to a milfoil infestation, all lakeside property valuations dropped 32% in five years. That severe drop hit everyone in the surrounding towns because full tax revenues were still needed. As a result, property taxes went up for the entire community to make up for the shortfall. In our area, the lakeside properties, especially those on Pennesseewassee, account for a large part of the total tax revenue. A hit there will hurt us all. It is that simple.

Our CBI program is our first line of defense. We hired four inspectors who were on duty seven days a week. Our limited budget allowed us to cover just the busiest boat launching times at the public boat ramp. The results are in. We inspected over 1600 boats. Significantly, nearly 600 of those boats last visited a lake other than Pennesseewassee! Think about that. We were visited by a boat that came from another lake 600 times. Each of them was a potential carrier of an invasive plant. We also found 38 boats with plants stuck on them – aquatic hitchhikers. So, is CBI worth it? The numbers speak for themselves. The state Department of Environmental Protection says that CBI programs are one of the biggest reasons Maine has not had as extensive an invasive problem as our neighboring states.

Our inspectors report that the overwhelming majority of boaters were appreciative of their efforts. Jim Muliolis liked hearing “thanks for looking out for our lake,” and other inspectors got similar responses. In fact, more than once, both Nick Allen and Archie Belanger were given fish as gifts by thankful fishermen.

There is more LAON would like to do, but we are limited by budget and time. If you want to help protect the community, please contact us. This wraps up our boating season, but we plan to run one more article on how duck hunters can avoid harming our lakes. We hope to start a new series of articles about protecting our lakes next Spring.