Proposed mill rate increase in Fort Kent blamed on school budget

Posted July 10, 2012, at 1:14 p.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — Property owners can expect to see an increase in their 2012 tax bills this year after the town council Monday night approved an 80 cent increase in the municipal mill rate.

The 3-2 vote to raise the mill rate from $16.45 for every $1,000 of property valuation to $17.25 per $1,000 marks the fourth year in a row the rate has gone up.

“For 2008 the mill was set at 14,” Priscilla Staples, councilwoman, said. “It’s gone up every year since then and if you do the math it’s increased 28 percent over that period.”

Councilors blame the increase on a steadily rising municipal school budget.

“Our mill rate increase is driven by the school budget,” said councilor Anthony Gauvin. “We are held hostage by the school budget [and] this year they got $500,000 less from the state.”

Last month voters approved an $11 million district budget and those lost state funds are now being passed along to Fort Kent taxpayers who will see increases in property taxes despite the municipal budget being slightly below last year’s, Gauvin said.

Resident Paul Berube said the steady rise in the town’s mill rate was coming at a price to taxpayers.

“From a taxpayer’s standpoint I am a little concerned about all the houses for sale around town,” Berube said. “Things are tight out there.”

But he also noted that a successful school district can actually help the town. The school may represent a large portion of the municipal tax commitment, he said, but in the long run it can be worth it.

“Yes the school budget costs a lot of money,” Berube said. “But good schools bring good people and a vibrancy to the town.”

The 17.25 mill rate will leave the town with a $20,283 cash overlay after all voter-approved expenses are met.

Of that overlay, $10,000 is needed to cover fire suppression costs associated with the March 25 fire that destroyed several downtown buildings, according to Town Manager Don Guimond.

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