East Millinocket voters to decide $4.01 million school budget on Thursday

Residents vote at East Millinocket's annual town meeting in this June 2014 file photo.
Residents vote at East Millinocket's annual town meeting in this June 2014 file photo. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 06, 2014, at 4:47 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town property taxes will rise significantly under a $4.01 million school budget voters will consider on Thursday, officials said.

Thursday’s validation vote of the school budget, the second this year, will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town office, according to town Administrative Assistant Shirley Tapley, who announced her resignation Monday to take another job.

Attempts to contact Tapley were unsuccessful.

Selectman Mark Marston said he hoped for a large voter turnout, as the town’s assessor predicted that the mill rate under the proposed town and school budgets would rise from $21.93 per thousand of valuation to about $37 this year.

“Even with all of our cuts [on the town and school budgets], it might go down as far as 34 mills,” Marston said Wednesday. “Hopefully, they are going to go to the polls and give us a sense of the direction in which they want us to go.”

The vote follows a town meeting Tuesday in which 58 voters approved a series of articles cutting the school budget from $4.07 million, according to a referendum vote sheet town officials provided.

The largest single cut reduced the local money raised from taxes to pay for town schools by $60,000, from $475,804 to $415,804. That motion passed 42-0. All of the motions carried with healthy margins.

The budget passed in an earlier town meeting and failed in a town referendum on June 10, by a vote of 246-145.

The mill rate is set in the late fall, and early estimates compute it will increase from $21.93 per thousand of valuation to about $37, if Great Northern Paper Co. LLC continues to fail to pay its overdue property taxes. The town is owed $657,900 by Great Northern Paper, plus interest and expenses.

A $27 mill rate will occur if the Great Northern Paper payment does come. That increase means owners of $50,000 properties would pay $1,350 in property taxes this year instead of $1,096.

A $37 mill rate would leave owners of $50,000 homes paying $1,850 this year, or $754 more than they paid in 2013-14. By comparison, the statewide average adjusted property tax rate was $13.99 in 2012, the latest year statewide figures are available.

The town’s economy, Marston said, has progressively worsened over the last few years. School and town officials have said they have cut their budgets significantly in response. But nothing has offset the town’s heaviest economic blow, the layoff of 212 of 256 workers at the Great Northern Paper mill on Feb. 6, and another less-well-known trend hurting the town is the reduction of state revenue sharing.

Three years ago, the town received slightly less than $400,000, he said. Last year it received $215,000 and this year will get $130,000, Marston said. He said he doesn’t see cutting more town government services.

“We have looked at consolidation of public services. It wasn’t going to go much cheaper. We are down to the basic services,” Marston said. “I don’t know if we can cut much more.”

 

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