Municipal Matters: Governor Issues Executive Order Affecting Municipal Taxation and Operations
On May 12, 2020, Governor Janet Mills issued an additional Executive Order in response to the COVID-19 civil emergency, addressing municipal taxation matters. This Executive Order, effective immediately, reinstates some vehicle registration requirements, allows municipalities greater flexibility in setting and extending dates related to property tax payments, and suspends lien notice deadlines for automatic foreclosures.
Within 30 days of the effective date of the Executive Order, vehicles required to be registered in Maine must be registered, but only if the owner is a resident of a municipality that participates in the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicle Rapid Renewal Program, or if the municipality is accepting online payments or in-person excise tax payments in its municipal office. This supersedes previous COVID-19-related legislative and executive action affecting vehicle registration.
Previously Established Property Tax Due Dates and Interest Accrual Dates
Municipal officers may extend and re-establish property tax payment due dates and interest accrual dates for taxes committed in 2019.
Property Tax Due Dates, Interest Rates, and Interest Accrual Dates for the Next Budget Year
This Executive Order clarifies emergency legislation enacted on March 17, 2020 (PL 2019, Ch. 617, § D-1). The emergency legislation allows municipalities that are unable to hold the annual budget-setting meeting due to the COVID‑19 public health crisis to use the previous year’s budget as the operating budget for the coming year, and to commit 2020 property taxes based on that budget. If a municipality chooses to commit 2020 taxes in that manner, the municipal officers may set due dates, the interest rate, and interest accrual dates for taxes committed in 2020. This Executive Order suspends the statutory requirement that such dates and rates are to be set by the municipality’s legislative body (whether a town meeting or council).
Property Tax Liens
Pursuant to this Executive Order, a tax collector may delay sending the 30-day demand notice to initiate the tax lien process until 60 days after Maine’s state of emergency is terminated. If, prior to this Executive Order, a tax collector has already issued the demand notice but has not yet filed the lien certificate in the registry of deeds, and the taxes remain unpaid, the tax collector may decline to file a lien certificate in the registry and may instead re-initiate the lien process by sending another notice within 60 days after the state of emergency is terminated. This Order suspends the deadline for sending the 30-day demand notice set forth in 36 M.R.S. § 942.
The COVID-19 crisis is rapidly evolving and requiring businesses to adapt quickly to legal, regulatory, economic, and community impacts. Our municipal law team is monitoring these developments in real time and we’re here to support and assist you as needed. Please do not hesitate to reach out if we can be helpful to you.