Casco grapples with unpaid camper taxes

 

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The Casco Board of Selectmen has been grappling with a solution to campers being driven away and tax debts being left unpaid with no forwarding address.

Every year, the Casco board write-offs the unpaid taxes on almost one-dozen mobile camper units.

If the owners register the camper with the Town of Casco, then property taxes are not levied on the camper.

Otherwise, the town assessor puts a value on campers parked year-round on all land in the town of Casco.

Once in a while, yet all too often, according to the selectmen, a camper owner simply drives away with the unit in tow.

The topic was discussed during a July 12 meeting and it was not the first time the issue was brought up. In fact, a month earlier, taxes were written off for a mobile home removed from a trailer court on Tenney Hill Road.

In the near future, possibly during the Aug. 9 or Aug. 30 meeting, the board plans to hold a workshop with the management of at least two local campgrounds to discuss how to handle the tax-collection problem.

“The problem we have is with seasonal campers in campgrounds,” Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said. “The problem we have is that the town assesses those as required by state law. We have problem with campers or trailers being removed without our knowledge.”

“I have one tonight. The couple was assessed for the previous trailer. The trailer is gone, and it was gone when they got there. The couple has been taxed, but they moved in with their own trailer,” he said.

The total tax debt was $556 in this one instance.

“If we had the cooperation of the facility owners, we could collect those taxes,” Morton said.

“Another way (to avoid this) is to address our land-use ordinance,” he said.

The proposed change would require all camper owners “to pull all seasonals off by Oct. 15 and not move back until April 15.”

“That would mean they are not taxable. It is not against the state law,” Morton said.

“The problem for the facilities is that moving campers might reduce repeat customers,” Morton said.

“There is not an easy solution,” he said.

Morton said that Chairman Holly Hancock and Selectman Mary-Vienessa Fernandes have suggested scheduling a meeting with owners of two facilities in Casco, Crooked River Campground and Point Sebago Resort.

“This has happened no fewer than eight or nine times this year. We don’t find out until the new person is there and they say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t own that,’” Morton said.

If campground management provided the Town of Casco with a list of people scheduled to leave, that might be helpful, he said.

“If they have to move it a couple times a year, they have to register it,” Selectman Grant Plummer.

“I agree that meeting should happen as soon as possible,” Plummer said. “A workshop would be fantastic. Make it as public as possible.”

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