FAQ

I heard Lewiston-Auburn is the new name! What about...

1)     How was the new name, Lewiston-Auburn, decided?

The Maine law on municipal consolidations stipulates that the Joint Charter Commission is responsible for choosing the name of the new city.  During a 6-week period in the Spring of 2017, the Lewiston Auburn Joint Charter Commission engaged with voters in both cities to solicit ideas for the new name. The Commissioners participated in radio, TV, and newspaper interviews to encourage citizens to participate.  Over 1,000 submissions were received.

The Joint Charter Commission established criteria for reviewing names and selecting Lewiston-Auburn, as follows:

  • Reflects the legacy of the two cities and honors the past
  • Is visionary and future-focused
  • Feels right
  • Is easy to spell

After much discussion, the decision came down to three names: Great Falls, variations Lewiston-Auburn and Androscoggin. 

Our community is known as and we call ourselves Lewiston-Auburn.  Putting the two city names together is a clear signal that the new city is one rooted in a strong, shared heritage. We will thrive by building on that strong, shared heritage.

2)     When will the new city name take effect?

The new city will be born on January 1, 2020, if the voters of both Lewiston and Auburn approve the proposed charter and consolidation agreement in November 2017. There will be a 26-month transition period.

3)     What will happen during the transition period?

The transition plan will be developed by the Transition Task Force, as detailed in Article 11 of the proposed Charter.

In all likelihood one of the transition sub-committees will take responsibility for addressing name change issues.  There are numerous other communities that have dealt with this, and their experiences will serve as guidelines for what we do here.

4)     We are losing our identity by merging the names.

We are known as Lewiston-Auburn today.  Nothing is being lost.

Going forward people will no doubt still use the single terms to denote geographical areas, just as New Auburn and Danville continue to be used to this day.

5)     How will duplicative street names be handled?

There are approximately 30 duplicative street names.  During the 26-month transition period, a transition sub-committee will decide how to resolve duplicate names.  One simple solution would be to add East to Lewiston streets and West to Auburn streets.

6)     If there is an emergency at my house, how will the police or firefighters find me?

The same way they do today.

Emergency dispatch center call takers receive map and location information provided by the 9-1-1 system (electronic global positioning data) for the location of the telephone used to report the emergency and they are trained to always verify the location of the emergency. This process is in place today and is expected to continue.

7)     Will I need to file change of address forms for all of my magazines and service providers?

No. The US Postal Service and other delivery companies rely on the zip code or postal code as the first data point.  Our zip or postal codes are not changing and mail will continue to be delivered, as it is today, regardless of whether the new city name or legacy city name is on your letters or packages.

To this day letters addressed to Danville, Maine 04210 are correctly delivered by the US Postal Service and other delivery companies.

8)     What do I do with all of the return address labels I have?

Use them as you normally would and when your stock is depleted, order your next batch with our new city name: Lewiston-Auburn.  No worries if you have more than 26 months of return address labels.  As long as the zip or postal code is correct, mail will be properly processed.

9)     After the new name takes effect, what will happen to mail addressed to me in Auburn, Maine?  What will happen to mail addressed to me in Lewiston, Maine?  Will it be returned to the sender?

If the zip code is correct, the mail will be delivered.

The US Postal Service and other delivery companies rely on the zip code or postal code as the first data point.  Our zip or postal codes are not changing and your mail will continue to be delivered, regardless of whether the new city name or legacy city name is on your letters or packages.

10)  Do I need to change my driver’s license and other official documents, such as car registration to Lewiston-Auburn, ME?

When your official documents, such as driver’s licenses and car registrations expire, you can renew them with our new city name: Lewiston-Auburn.  Until natural renewal or expiration dates, documents listing Auburn, ME or Lewiston, ME are permitted to be used.

11)  Will businesses with Auburn or Lewiston in their name be changing their names to reflect the new city name?

There is no need for a business with Auburn or Lewiston in the name to change their business name simply because the city name is changing.  The Galt Animal Hospital still exists in Cambridge, Ontario 40 years after Galt and 2 other cities merged to become Cambridge.  Decades after Winston-Salem, NC merged, Salem Kitchen is still operating under their original name. Closer to home, golfers are still playing at the Foxcroft Golf Club in Dover-Foxcroft.

12)  How will GPS systems be updated?

There is a defined process for updating GPS systems and mapping companies and there is a standard protocol in place for both legacy and new city names to appear during a transition period.  The same protocol applies when street names change: GPS systems and mapping companies list both street names during a transition period. The Transition Task Force will provide regular updates on topics such as this.

The Decision

How will the decision to merge Lewiston and Auburn be made?

The Joint Charter Commission, which consists of 3 representatives elected by Lewiston voters and 3 representatives elected by Auburn voters, has recommended merging Lewiston and Auburn.  In June 2017, they will conclude all activities required by State law to merge and they will submit the final documents to both the Lewiston and Auburn city councils.

The state statute allowing for the Commission and the merger process requires public hearings before a vote can take place.  It is anticipated that both city councils will hold hearings this summer. 

Unless something unforeseen happens, the issue will be on the November 7, 2017 ballot.

If a majority of voters in Lewiston and a majority of voters in Auburn approve the recommendation of the Joint Charter Commission to merge, a two-year transition period would commence, and the new city would be born on January 1, 2020.

Learning More

How can I learn more?

The Joint Charter Commission is responsible for educating voters and is happy to speak with interested groups, including small gatherings in voters' homes.  To request a meeting with a Commissioner, please send an email message to genegeigercc@gmail.com.

The Joint Charter Commission website http://newlacharter.ning.com includes all documents associated with the merger and recordings of all meetings.

Both city councils must hold public hearings before a vote.  It is anticipated these will take place this summer and they will be well publicized.

Separation After Merger

If Lewiston and Auburn merge and become one city, is there a process to revert back to being separate municipalities?

Yes, state law provides for a separation process. 

If the decision to merge is approved by the voters, there will be a 26 month transition period.  The objective of that lengthy time period is to ensure a smooth process and maximum success as one municipality. 

When Were You All In

When Gene Geiger became chair was he undecided?  At what point did he commit to idea?

According to Gene Geiger, “In concept, I thought it made sense, especially as I considered the severe demographic and economic challenges our two small cities face in a no-growth, business unfriendly state.  I became convinced and committed as I participated in the workgroup discussions last Summer and early Fall.  I could see the dollar savings are real and significant.

I am certain we cannot reach our potential if we don’t come together and pull together.  We might languish even if we are united, but I am certain of our fate if the two cities continue as rivals.”

Why So Rare

Why don't more cities merge or combine?

Several prominent cities in the US are the result of mergers, including Winston Salem, NC; Battle Creek, MI, and very recently Princeton, NJ.  

Princeton’s merger has been very successful and was detailed in the book entitled, A Tale Of Two Tigers by Chad Goerner. 

"In 2011 Princeton Township and Princeton Borough voted to merge into a single town, overcoming six decades of failed attempts. The consolidation of the Princetons is a victory for government reform advocates in a state of inefficient 'home rule' and overwhelming layers of government: 565 municipalities, 599 school districts and 21 county units.

"The first large-scale New Jersey municipal merger in over a century, Princeton's consolidation has generated considerable savings and operating efficiencies. Their success has provided a template for other towns to use in their own consolidation and service regionalization efforts."

In Canada, several prominent cities are also the result of mergers, including Cambridge, Ontario.

Consolidating or merging two municipalities requires collaboration between both cities to decide how to reengineer the new government structure and the services it provides.  Cities that are very similar, such as Lewiston and Auburn with aligned charters and harmonized city department structures, have great advantages.

It is a bold, progressive move, one where citizens can envision a better future as one, rather than holding to the status quo.  Supporters see a unique opportunity to reinvent the education system, which in turn, will attract the families whose skills will attract employers seeing quality talent.

Princeton

How are Lewiston and Auburn similar to and different from the two cities that combined into Princeton, NJ?

The person who led Princeton’s merger effort, Anton Lahnston, now resides in Maine and has been following the merger activities here.  Here is how he responded to a Lewiston city councilor who asserted that the two efforts “could not be more different.”

I disagree.  I think there are some aspects of the Princeton consolidation that are quite informative for Lewiston and Auburn and that the LA consolidation challenges are not a “far cry” from consolidation in the Princetons.

Like LA, redundancy, inefficiencies and related costs existed in the Princetons.  Both the Princeton Borough and Township of Princeton had full time administrations, separate departments for police, public works, engineering, information technology/systems, as well as separate courts and different ordinances – just to name a few.  At the same time however, the two municipalities in Princeton shared 13 services, including schools, recreation, and fire departments.  And we found that even in the shared services in Princeton – like LA – there were competing agendas contributing significant costs and the loss of precious time by staff and elected officials as they attempted to provide the degree of service effectiveness residents expected.

Two other similarities are important.  First, in Princeton there was a very strong and vocal organization opposed to consolidation called “Preserve our Historic Borough”.  Their campaign was a very big factor in the work of the Princeton Consolidation Commission requiring many meetings and intense dialogues.  Sometimes we agreed on changes, sometimes not, but in the end it led to a stronger consolidation. Second, both Princeton and Lewiston-Auburn have major institutions of higher education within their boundaries that deserve to be served by efficient and vital government.

The pathway to consolidation in Princeton was challenging.  Not unlike Lewiston and Auburn the topic of consolidation was constant for more than 60 years and put to a vote for the fourth time in 2011.  In Princeton we took many of the same steps as already engaged in LA, and ultimately voted to consolidate which has helped the two Princetons move to a brighter future. 

Finally, among our many learnings during the years of work on Princeton’s consolidation we found that contentious and divergent points of view are necessary and helpful in making better informed decisions on consolidation. 

Efficiency Gains

How can we know that we will get efficiency gains?  Can we adopt some measures to see that we are getting results from the merger.

This is a very good idea.  We will recommend to the Transition Task Force that they adopt a few key metrics to help the citizens know how we are doing, perhaps in an annual report to the citizens.

Council Representation

Will there be the same number of Council representatives?

Ward populations will be roughly twice the current size, but 2 Councilors will represent each ward, much like 2 Senators represent each state.  Councilor terms will be staggered so there will be continuity of knowledge and representation from one council to the next.

Merging City Departments

Will there be transition teams to assist with the departments combining?  How does that work?

Workgroups will be established to consider how departments will be combined and how to transition.  In the main, these will be current employees who know their work and will be given the opportunity to rethink and reengineer how that work is done.  For many it will be an exciting opportunity to make a big impact on how their part of the city is run.

Job Losses

Will a lot of people lose their jobs?

Relatively few jobs will be affected.  Given a 26-month transition period the Charter Commission anticipates that nearly all job reductions will take place by attrition with some people simply transferring to new jobs within the organization.

Down This Road Before

Have we tried to merge the cities before?

No, not since the 19th century has there been a move to merge the two cities fully.  There have been, however, three study commissions in the last 30 years which recommended consolidating select municipal services.  While the identified savings were more than $2 million, the city councils did not implement the recommendations of any of the commissions.  Given that civic inaction, the Charter Commission is taking the concept one step further and taking it directly to the voters.

Up From The Grassroots

Has there been grassroots support in this initiative?  

Opponents have been noisy about this issue, but they overlook the fact that 2500 citizens signed petitions to create the Charter Commission, and then the citizens of both cities elected three people to represent them on the Commission.

Rival High Schools

How will we maintain our identities if we don’t have the Blue Devils and the Red Eddies?

There will certainly be two high schools as there are today.  The Blue Devils and Red Eddies will continue as athletic rivals, just as Portland and Deering High Schools in the City of Portland.

Merging Only School Districts

Can we consolidate school districts if the merger fails?

Yes, but making things work well will be complicated.  Today each school board presents its budget to its city council for approval, a process that can be contentious.  A merged school district would have to present its operating budgets and capital requests to both cities.  Given the political divide we have seen, one could envision one council saying yes and other saying no.  Add to that the political tussling when deciding where to build a new school or what school needed renovating.

As a practical matter, it does not seem likely that if the voters decided against a merger they would agree to join school systems.

Special Education

How will special education change?

Accommodating students who have special needs is a mandate, and that will continue.  We did note that special education consumes a major portion – roughly 25% -- of the school budgets, and 25% of that amount is spent on tuition paid to send special need students to out of districts schools.  These costs can amount to $50,000 per year more than educating those same student within the school system. 

The issues are very complex and not easily solved, but it seems that the scale of a larger system would allow bringing in-district some of the 130+ students who current go out of district.

Having more students educated within the system would be better for them and would result in significant savings.

Training Students For Tomorrow’s Jobs

Are business owners working together and communicating with the high schools so the right kind of training for local jobs gets developed?  There has been some discussion of a new LRTC satellite center.  Would there be more programs developed to serve both communities?

Our Commission did not have the expertise to dig into curricula.  At noted above, that is best left to professional educators, of whom the two cities have in abundance.  Looking at a very high level, we did discuss the importance of aligning education offerings with the job needs of the future.  LRTC is very highly regarded, and we recognized importance and opportunity to expand its offerings to include more Auburn-side students.

High School Benefits

What is the benefit to high school students, parents, and taxpayers?

A consolidated school system would be the largest in the state, even larger than the Portland system.  Given that larger scale, it would be able to offer a greater variety of offerings and cater better to individual student needs.  For example, one high school might specialize in STEM offerings and the other the Humanities, with students taking advantage of what interests them most.  The aim would be to better prepare students for post high school education and the jobs of the future.

The Commission has identified nearly $500,000 of administrative savings from reducing duplicative costs.  At the same time it has made no recommendations regarding facilities, teaching, and curricula.  That is best left to the professionals.

Impact on Poverty

Downtown Lewiston has a 42% poverty rate and is the poorest square mile north of Boston.  How will this affect our welfare system?

There are no easy solutions to eliminating poverty, and people in need need support.  The overarching goal of merging LA is to have a first-rate education system that improves the skills our local talent and attracts talented newcomers who, in turn, will attract the companies that provide the job opportunities that will lift the entire community.

Tax Savings Guarantees

Can you guarantee that the taxpayers will see those savings?

There are no guarantees in life or in taxes.  We are highly confident that there are at least $2.3 million of annual savings to be found if the cities merger. They have been identified them in great detail, department by department in the Commission Recommendations and Rationale report and the Consolidation Options and Impacts study both of which are posted on the Commission’s website. 

Beyond those conservative numbers, we are confident there are additional savings to be found as departments are integrated and people look creatively how to do things better.  

It will be up to the new city council, elected by the voters and guided by professional staff, to decide what to do with savings. They will be able to reduce taxes, reduce the growth of taxes, make capital investments, improve services, or any combination thereof.

There is one certainty. If there is no merger, annual savings between $2.3 and $4.2 million will not be realized. Therefore, taxes will rise at a faster rate and/or services will be reduced.

Paying Off Debt

Will Auburn-side taxpayers have to pay off that higher Lewiston side debt?

No. Auburn side taxpayer will have rates set so that only Auburn’s current debt will be apportioned to them. Likewise, only Lewiston taxpayers will pay off Lewiston’s current debt. After merger, new debt will be equally shared. After all current debt is retired, taxpayers on both sides of the river will pay exactly the same rate.

Differences In Assessed Valuation

How have differences in property valuations between Lewiston and Auburn been taken into account?

Lewiston’s tax rates are considerably higher than Auburn’s tax rates, but Lewiston’s property valuations are below market value and below Auburn’s property valuations, which are at close to market rates.  Our report adjusts the valuations against state valuation levels so that they can be properly compared. 

When that equalization is done, the actual tax rates are very close with the primary difference being the cost to service Lewiston debt being higher than Auburn.  Because of that higher debt service, Lewiston-side taxpayers would pay a slightly higher rate than Auburn-side taxpayers -- $22.70 compared to $21.38 – until all current debt is retired.

Savings Impact For Individual Tax Payers

The Commission projects a combined city could save between $2.3 and $4.2 million dollars per year (i.e. 2.5% to 4.4% of current tax levies) and between $23 and $42 million over a 10-year period.  What does this mean to the individual taxpayer?

Those savings calculate to $1,900 for the median Lewiston property owner and $1,050 for the median Auburn property owner over that ten-year period.   Those savings might be used to reduce taxes, reduce the growth of taxes, fund service improvements, or fund needed investments.  Future city councils will decide what to do with any savings. 

One thing is clear -- if there is no merger, there will no savings of this magnitude, and taxes will rise more rapidly or services will be reduced.

Storm Water Fee

Currently, Lewiston residents pay a storm water fee.  Auburn residents do not.  The Commission’s report recommends that a merged city should adopt a storm water fee for everyone.  Won’t this reduce the tax savings being projected for Auburn side residents?

How are storm water management costs covered in Auburn today?

Storm water management costs are covered by property taxes, which are assessed on the value of land plus buildings. The costs to manage storm water are not broken out and charged separately.

Once consequence of this is that nonprofits and other organizations that do not pay property taxes do not contribute to the city's costs for storm water management.

How are storm water management costs covered in Lewiston today?

Storm water management costs are not covered by taxes paid by Lewiston property owners. They are funded separately and are assessed on the square footage of impervious surfaces such as roofs, driveways, parking lots, etc.

All property owners share in the cost of dealing with water from rain and snow. Thus, non-profit organizations (e.g., hospitals, colleges, churches) that do not pay property taxes, contribute to these costs.

How are the storm water management fees assessed in Lewiston?

Storm water management fees are based on the square footage of impervious surfaces present on a property. Impervious surfaces determine the run-off generated from a property and the amount of impervious surface is directly correlated to the cost of managing storm water.

Using existing data from the Geographic Information System, the square footage of impervious surfaces is readily available for all properties.

Why did Lewiston shift to a fee structure for storm water management?

Lewiston considers the fee structure to be the most equitable way to fund storm water management because it is based on square footage of impervious surfaces, which is directly correlated to the costs. For example, a property owner with a large commercial building and sizable parking area pays considerably more for storm water management than a single-family homeowner.

The fee structure also provides property tax relief to homeowners because property tax-exempt organizations are contributing to the city’s storm water management costs.

What are the implications of the storm water fee on property tax?

Lewiston shifted to a fee structure for storm water management in 2007. At that time, the $1.9 million in storm water management expense, if paid with property taxes, would have cost $1.27 per $1,000 assessed valuation. A typical single-family home in Lewiston valued at $80,000 would have paid an additional $102 in property taxes for storm water management. With the storm water management fee structure in place, the same home paid $50.

If Lewiston and Auburn merge, will a storm water management fee be introduced in Auburn or will Lewiston shift back to an all-inclusive property tax?

The Charter Commission has taken no position on this issue.

If the voters of both Lewiston and Auburn approve the proposed charter and consolidation agreement in November 2017, there will be a 26-month transition period when this and other issues will be considered. After the merger is finalized on January 1, 2020, a new city council will make decisions on this and other issues.

Whether the funded from property taxes or a separate assessment, the cost to dispose of storm water will continue.