June 20, 2018
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Mill property tax cut would force Millinocket layoffs

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

MILLINOCKET, Maine — About $1.15 million in tax breaks proposed by Katahdin Paper Co. LLC would force the elimination of seven positions, including the layoff of two police officers, under a municipal budget Town Manager Eugene Conlogue proposed on Thursday.

Telling the Town Council that the budget is “the worst I have prepared in the 20 years I have been doing this,” Conlogue sought $905,154 in spending cuts and he anticipated revenue reductions totaling $577,514 in the 2011-12 budget, which goes into effect on July 1.

Conlogue’s request comes “not because of a lack of need or work to be done. It is the need to economize and live within the budget constraints we find ourselves in,” he said.

Conlogue’s budget includes a proposed $1.15 million tax loss from the Katahdin Avenue paper mill regardless of Meriturn Partners’ efforts to buy the mill, which closed in 2008, and its East Millinocket sister mill for $1, he said.

Town officials are negotiating a counteroffer to Meriturn’s original property tax proposal, which sought a decrease on the Katahdin Avenue mill’s tax from $2.6 million to about $50,000.

And Katahdin Paper Co., the mill’s present owner, has filed taxable valuation reduction requests on the mill that would in Conlogue’s estimation create the $1.15 million tax loss. Meriturn’s possible creation of 120 to 150 jobs at the mill, less than the 200 some originally anticipated, will help the region’s economy but would have no direct impact on Conlogue’s budget, he said.

Under Conlogue’s budget, half the $1.15 million loss would be absorbed by the School Department. Municipal and wastewater services would absorb the rest, Conlogue said.

Besides the police, the seven positions cut, which represent a $364,267 savings, include a part-time town clerk, a deputy Public Works Department director, a children’s librarian and a Recreation Department maintenance supervisor, Conlogue said.

The police cuts would create at least 16 hours a week where the town would have single-officer coverage and two detectives would shift in rank to patrol officers. The D.A.R.E. program also would be eliminated.

Two full-time transfer site jobs would shift to public works, with part-timers filling in at the site, and a public works deputy director’s position would be cut, but its occupant is likely to replace Director Dennis Cox, who took a job in Topsfield, Conlogue said.

Other budget cuts include a $57,000 cut to the town’s $120,000 capital projects account, a $102,402 cut to retirees’ health insurance, and a $285,000 reduction in the town’s special capital projects account, Conlogue said.

With his budget, only outside funds totaling $45,000 would pave streets, down from $100,000 expended in the 2010-11 budget, and winter recreation programs would be cut. Summer recreation programs also would be curtailed, Conlogue said.

About the only good news in the budget, Conlogue said, was a projected $75,000 increase in the state revenue sharing budget of $550,000.

No cuts are final until councilors approve them. The council will begin budget hearings at 4 p.m. Tuesday, with sessions following Tuesdays through Thursdays at that time until the end of May.

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