Voters could decide on removing a remote subdivision from Petersburg’s service area one this fall.
The borough assembly Monday gave the first of three approvals to a ballot question on Frederick Point East. Property owners there have asked to be removed from service area one, which has a higher property tax rate than the rest of the borough. Those land owners say they should pay the lower rate because they do not receive garbage collection, snow plowing, water, sewer or other services offered on the more populated parts of the island.
Clerk Debbie Thompson Monday said the borough is still figuring out how the vote will work. However she expects there will be a separate ballots for people inside service area one and the rest of the borough.
“People who reside year-round at Frederick Point East will vote and a majority of those voters need to approve removal from service area one and all people within service area one also need to vote on it,” Thompson told the assembly.
This would be the first ballot measure for the Petersburg borough that only deals with one part of it. Voters approved the creation of the borough in 2013.
The borough assembly agreed last year to wait until 2021 to put the Frederick Point East question to voters after hearing from some property owners.
This month several assembly member expressed reservations about going forward with the vote.
“I’ll vote yes for it now in its first reading,” said Jeigh Stanton Gregor. “I think it deserves to get to a public hearing. As member (Jeff) Meucci said this has been a long time in the works and I look forward to hearing more details as we move forward but again I’ve got reservations just about tax structure involved in this and whether it’s really a solution.”
The assembly may have a larger discussion about the fairness of local property taxes. The level of services is not the same for all properties inside the service area, or outside for that matter. But assembly members also point out that’s often factored into a tax assessment.
Assembly member Dave Kensinger supported the ballot measure and thought it’s time for that larger discussion.
“I think if we could find some structure where we just basically said that we have a different tax structure for properties that are on the road system in service area one, obviously we have that structure in place right now, different structure in service area two, on the road system,” Kensinger said. “And then we have a completely different category that is our lowest tax structure that we have now for property that has no road access and doesn’t have any ability to receive any services.”
To clarify, Petersburg only has one service area, approved during the formation of the borough and following the limits of the old city of Petersburg. The assembly can create new ones and levy taxes but only with approval of voters in those areas.
An ordinance to put the Frederick Point East question on the October ballot passed on a 6-0 vote in first reading with assembly member Chelsea Tremblay not at the meeting. It takes three readings and a public hearing will be during the assembly’s next regular meeting May 3.
At the current tax rates, the borough stands to lose around $10,668 a year if voters agree to remove the subdivision from the higher tax area.