School budget, shuttered mill prompt jump in Ashland tax rate

Posted Aug. 26, 2013, at 6:03 a.m.

ASHLAND, Maine — The loss of the Fraser mill is being cited as the biggest reason for the municipality seeing a 3 mill increase in the property tax rate this year, according to Town Manager Ralph Dwyer.

“The school budget was up 2.71 mills due to education; the municipality — including overlay funds — resulted in a .14 mil increase; and the county portion equals .15 mills,” said Dwyer. Ashland’s property tax rate is $23.25 per $1,000 in valuation.

Dwyer said the final municipal budget for 2013 came to $2,435,245, up slightly from 2012’s figure of $2,272,754. He said a shift in the tax burden due to Fraser’s closing the Ashland mill resulted in a “loss of $6.9 million in tax valuation, due to the sale of the Fraser mill and revaluation of the property.”

The town manager said unlike many communities hit hard by the state’s cutting revenue sharing funds, Ashland “had some carryover from last year.”

“Funds from last year’s revenue sharing carried over; that helped a bit,” he said. “Unlike other towns we didn’t see a significant drop in revenue sharing, especially with the carryover.”

Dwyer said town officials “kept the budget tight,” passing the municipal portion last spring, then later passing the school budget without knowing what the state’s budget would be.

“We knew the school’s a while back. We were just waiting on the state’s budget. When the state figure was in, it resulted in significant revenue sharing and excise tax losses for us,” he said.

Dwyer said due to Fraser’s departure from the municipal tax roll, the town has applied for property tax breaks through a state taxation program.

“It’s an adjustment for sudden and severe disruption of valuation,” said Dwyer.

Under the program, a municipality that has experienced a sudden and severe disruption in its municipal valuation may request an adjustment to the equalized valuation determined by the state tax assessor for the purposes of calculating distributions of education funding and state-municipal revenue sharing. A municipality requesting an adjustment must file a petition, with supporting documentation, with the state tax assessor and indicate the time period for which adjustments to distributions are requested.

A municipality must meet certain criteria to qualify.

Dwyer believes Ashland qualifies under a provision that specifies “the equalized net reduction is attributable to the closure, removal, replacement, retrofit, obsolescence, disaster or abatement attributable to a single taxpayer.” For Ashland, that would be Fraser’s closure.

“If approved, this would lower our valuation more rapidly than normal, thus lowering taxes,” said Dwyer.

The town has yet to receive a determination on its request.

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