LINCOLN, Maine — Property taxes will decline slightly under a mill rate set earlier this week, town officials said Wednesday.
Town officials set a new mill rate Monday of $22.40 per $1,000 in property valuation. That’s 56 cents lower than the $22.96 rate during the 2013-14 fiscal year, which ended June 30, according to town Tax Assessor Ruth Birtz.
Under the new rate, Lincoln properties worth $50,000 will be taxed $1,120 this year compared to $1,148 with the old rate. The reduction came in part because of a lot of work council members and town government administrators did, cutting nearly $600,000 from the town’s $3.67 million operating budget, officials said.
“At a time when everyone’s taxes are going up, Lincoln managed to make the hard cuts and reduce the mill rate,” Birtz said Wednesday.
“I think it is good, obviously. We had to make difficult decisions about staffing levels at the town office and with some public safety positions,” council Chairman Steve Clay said. “It was up in the air for a long time whether the state would do revenue sharing with us. At the beginning of the year we didn’t know whether they would.”
Town workers are mailing the bills this week, Birtz said.
The council approved cutting the proposed town operating budget from $4.2 million to $3.68 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year to save taxpayers from the impact of the layoff of about 200 workers from Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC late last year. The cuts included the layoff of one full-time firefighter, a part-time library clerk and a part-time clerk in the town office, officials have said.
The cuts also helped overcome a reduction in the valuation of the mill, the town’s largest single taxpayer, from $49.2 million to $25.6 million. This translates to the mill paying $575,480 in gross taxes to the town this year compared to $1.12 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year, Birtz said.
The reduction in valuation to the mill occurred because of a boiler explosion late last year, which forced the layoff and the discontinuation of paper production at the mill. Valuation negotiations were among the reasons why another month’s delay in setting a mill rate would have forced the town to take out a tax anticipation note to offset a revenue shortfall, Birtz said.
The amount of taxes the town pays Penobscot County and the allocation of local money to town schools also increased, Birtz said.
New businesses, such as SW Collins hardware and Dunkin’ Donuts, plus the promise of new businesses drawn by the widening of West Broadway and a natural-gas pipeline on that road, will help the town maintain a stable mill rate in the 2015-16 fiscal year, Birtz and Town Manager Ron Weatherbee said.
“It is really hard to anticipate where we will be,” Birtz said. “I think that overall, if the council maintains their goal of keeping taxes stable, we could be looking at the same mill rate or less.”