Millinocket may see tax increase, says manager

Posted Oct. 12, 2010, at 10:22 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:28 a.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Nothing is yet certain, but if Town Manager Eugene Conlogue had to bet on it, he’d say the town’s tax rate will increase next year.

“If I had to tilt one way or another, I would say that it’s going to go up somewhat, due to the drop in the Homestead Exemption reimbursement to municipalities,” Conlogue said Tuesday. The second factor influencing the likely tax rate increase “will probably come from the continued depreciation of the Katahdin Paper mill. Those two factors will have a lot to do with what happens.”

The Town Council will meet in special session at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 19 in the town office to discuss the new rate, Conlogue said. The public is invited to attend.

Conlogue and Town Assessor Michael Noble had hoped to have the mill rate calculations for fiscal year 2010-11 ready in time for Thursday’s meeting, but the Columbus Day holiday coupled with his plans to attend a Maine Municipal Association event will make that impossible, the town manager said.

“I also need some time to determine what, if any, budget amendments need to be presented to you,” Conlogue said to councilors in an e-mail announcing the meeting.

Noble set the present mill rate at 22.8 on Oct. 24, 2009. It was a drop in the town’s tax rate of 1.4 mills over the previous year’s rate. It meant that residents who own houses worth $100,000 paid $2,280 in taxes on those properties, or $140 less than before.

Conlogue and town department managers have worked all year to limit budget growth and otherwise control costs as much as possible, he has said.

However, the Katahdin Paper Co. LLC mill’s assessed value has dropped by an average of $5 million per year since the mill closed several years ago. At the current mill rate, that translates to about $120,000 in tax revenue, Conlogue said.

State reimbursements to municipalities also have dropped considerably, a trend that shows no sign of changing.

In Lincoln, Town Assessor Ruth Birtz set the fiscal year 2010-11 mill rate at 20.12 in August, a figure slightly lower than the 20.60 rate set during the 2009-10 fiscal year, but the drop in the exemption still forces that town’s taxpayers to pay slightly more in taxes.

Though Lincoln’s new rate is 48 cents lower per $1,000 worth of valuation than the old, the state Department of Revenue increased valuations by 5 percent while decreasing the Homestead Exemption from $13,000 to $10,000 per home, a $60 increase per home, officials have said.

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