BROWNVILLE, Maine — The 2012-13 fiscal year mill rate will be $17.30 for every $1,000 in assessed property after the selectmen gave their approval to the figure during a July 18 meeting. The rate is unchanged from the previous year.
Town Manager Matthew Pineo suggested the tax rate would have gone down if not for factors outside of the town’s control.
“The reason behind this is the school budget went up for our fiscal year, which is representative of half a mill,” he said.
He said the town also faced an approximate 20 percent reduction in Business Equipment Tax Exemption program funds from the state, as well as a reduction in tree growth.
“They lowered tree growth $5 to $7 an acre, and in Brownville two-thirds of the town is tree growth. That was a surprise,” Pineo said. “All of that took away the $330,000 we gained; if we didn’t have that we would be down $0.80. The town’s budget went down, but we can’t control the state and the schools.”
“We would be half a mill less if not for the school budget,” said Walter Cook, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, noting that SAD 41 received a larger subsidy from the state, saw an operational costs savings through forming an Alternate Organizational Structure with SAD 31 but still presented a larger budget for 2012-13.
Last month residents of the four district communities gave their approval to a $8,009,473 spending plan, an increase of more than $338,000 from the year before. Included in the school budget is nearly $1.97 million in local assessments for the four towns, which all saw a rise in contributions. Brownville’s share of about $532,000 is up by nearly $15,700 from 2011-12.
“In my opinion I call it a runaway train,” Cook said, as Brownville’s share of the SAD 41 budget has gone up for the last few years. “The only avenue we have is to vote no.”
Pineo said school costs have risen in other districts, such as for Bradford in SAD 64, where he was town manager before coming to Brownville. He added that the $17.30 mill rate would provide for an overlay of $12,800, about $1,100 more than the previous year.
In other business, Pineo provided an update on the payment efforts for cleanup from the previous month’s flooding.
He said that “$41,724.18 has been paid out as of today. You folks took $60,000 out of reserve for this.” Pineo added that the town is looking to purchase about 100 tons of asphalt from the state, which is doing a construction job in Milo, at a rate of about $96 a ton.
“Cyr Bus Lines has made a donation by check in the amount of $10,000 to the town to repair the roads, which is a huge blessing,” Pineo said. The selectmen may opt to put the donation from the Old Town-based company in the Urban Rural Initiative Program account, and could vote on the placement at the August meeting.
A number of municipalities have provided support to Brownville in the response and rebuilding efforts, and the selectmen signed individualized thank you notes to each town to express gratitude for the specific contributions.
Pineo said he continues to work with state and federal officials on seeking funding opportunities to cover the damage incurred. “We are finishing the roads and I’m still trying to get the money; all the numbers are in to MEMA,” he said, referring to the Maine Emergency Management Agency.
“The governor can actually make the case that Brownville is poor and very rural,” Pineo said, expressing hope that exemptions can be made for federal assistance if the damage totals for Brownville and other communities hit by the heavy rains do not reach the Federal Emergency Management Agency threshold of $1.8 million.
If Brownville had to pay for all of the damage itself, “this is 40 percent of our budget and would be a significant loss for our town,” Cook said.
“Matthew’s worked tirelessly in this disaster, especially in fundraising,” Cook added, thanking the town manager for his efforts.
The board voted to place a trio of properties out to bid, with the right to accept or reject all submissions when opened during the Aug. 1 meeting. The properties include the old town garage on Church Street, for a minimum bid of $30,000, and the lot that was the site of Brownville Jct. High School on North and Front streets.
“I say we put it out to bid; we’re not using it,” board member Maria Landry said of the parcel.
The third property is Sugar Island, which in actuality is a peninsula in the Pleasant River with no road access. Pineo said the town has no use for this parcel, and it was placed out to bid starting at $3,500.
Pineo told the selectmen that he would like to see if he could find a grant, such as under historic preservation, to apply for to move the old firehouse on Church Street down the road next to the fire station and town Christmas tree.
“I would like to do something,” he said. “It’s a beautiful building; it just needs help.” Grant funding could also restore the old firehouse exterior and provide signage for the building.