EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — It’s months overdue, but town leaders hope to set a new, and lower, property tax rate on Jan. 5 thanks to a new deal with the town’s top taxpayer, they said Friday.
Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners tentatively agreed with town officials on Tuesday to increase from $27 million to $33.5 million the valuation on the company’s hydroelectric equipment on the Penobscot River within town lines, said Mark Scally, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.
That means that under the town’s present mill rate of $28.54 per $1,000 in property valuation, Brookfield’s taxes would increase from $770,580 to $956,090. Scally said he was satisfied with the agreement and praised Brookfield officials for their amicable approach to the issue.
“That increase helps us out a lot,” Scally said Friday. “The town is forging a good relationship with Brookfield. The people we have worked with have been stellar in terms of how good and accommodating they have been.”
Town officials believe that the increase in Brookfield revenue is among several things that will lower the property rate to at least $27.80 per $1,000 in valuation — or lower it further, Scally said. That means that owners of properties worth $100,000 would pay $2,780 instead of $2,854, a $74 savings.
Town officials usually set the mill rate in October or November, but their being forced to take over the paper mill’s wastewater facilities, which the town had used for decades, accounts for the delay, Administrative Assistant Angela Cote said.
“It was just the way things fell together,” Cote said.
As part of Brookfield’s agreement, the town would agree to hold Brookfield’s valuation at $33.5 million for two years and Brookfield would agree to avoid seeking a tax abatement for the same period, Scally said.
Town Assessor William Van Tuinen pushed for the valuation renegotiation with Brookfield. He believed that with the Great Northern Paper Co. LLC mill closed since Feb. 6, 2014, and Brookfield selling more electricity to the New England power grid because of the closure, the dams and other power generation equipment had increased in value, Scally said.
Brookfield describes itself at its website, brookfieldrenewable.com, as the world’s largest publicly traded renewable power platform, with hydroelectric and wind facilities in North America, Latin America and Europe that generate more than 7,000 megawatts of installed capacity. That’s enough renewable energy to power 4 million homes. It is part of a group of companies with approximately $200 billion in assets under management.
Selectmen hope to approve the town’s tax commitment to the 2015-16 fiscal year, which ends June 30, during their meeting on Jan. 5. They also plan to extend the town’s payment deadline for paying second-half property taxes, which typically occurs Jan. 1, until April, Scally said.