Cary Plantation residents raise their hands to show their support for having the town begin the deorganization process, in this file photo from May 18, 2017. Credit: Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times

AUGUSTA, Maine — With heavy local support, a bill sponsored by an Aroostook County representative to disband the community of Cary Plantation sailed through both the state House of Representatives and Senate this week.

Rep. Roger Sherman, R-Hodgdon, sponsored LD 780 “An Act Authorizing the Disorganization of Cary Plantation.”

Tina Libby, chairman of the Cary deorganization committee, said Thursday that she was “giddy” after hearing word of the House enacting the bill that day in Augusta. Libby said that the town must now hold another referendum vote in November to get final authorization from residents. Two-thirds of the residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election, or 49 voters, will need to approve deorganizing to make the move final.

“This has been a long, lengthy process,” she said. “The state does not make this easy, but the community has been in favor of it, so that is what matters.”

During the last vote in October 2017, residents voted 85-6 in favor of deorganization. The town’s desire to move forward stems from the inability of taxpayers in this community of 189 to keep up with the rising costs of running municipal government and providing education for children.

The state rejected Cary Plantation’s initial proposal in 2016 year, fearing that more towns similar in size also would be encouraged to attempt to deorganize and hand control over to state and county officials as a way to reduce tax burdens.

Of the 42 towns that have deorganized in the last century, few had more than 100 residents at the time.

Though he could not immediately be reached for comment, Rep. Roger Sherman of Hodgdon, who introduced the bill again, testified before the State and Local Government Committee, telling members that citizens of the community were “concerned that the amount of taxable acreage, combined with its small tax base, has given them some serious concerns about its future.”

According to Libby, 30 properties were delinquent in paying roughly $70,000 in property taxes last year.

“The current tax rate, at $30, is 50 percent higher than the County mill rate,” Sherman testified. “A large amount of land outside taxation (state owned land) along with a large amount of people on a taxed income, combined with a dwindling population, has Cary Plantation citizens very concerned as they review their mandatory bills for education and county taxes.”

If approved by residents in November, Cary Plantation would then have to liquidate its assets and account for its debts before becoming Cary Township and joining the state’s Unorganized Territory. Residents of the UT, which rely on the county and state for public services, were assessed a $6.47 mill rate in Aroostook in 2016.

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