OLD TOWN, Maine — A dispute over the value set for the local pulp mill’s real estate and equipment is headed for review, and if the mill owner’s appeal is granted, residents could face a minimum property tax increase of about 9 percent, according to a city official.

On Monday, Expera Specialty Solutions formally submitted an appeal seeking a $43.7 million, or 85 percent, reduction of the town’s current assessment of slightly more than $51 million.

The appeal was submitted after city officials denied the company’s request for a property tax abatement, Expera spokeswoman Addie Teeter said Monday.

In the appeal, Expera maintains that the mill is worth only $7.3 million — the purchase price it paid amid a bankruptcy proceeding late last year for the then-shuttered mill — and should be taxed accordingly.

“Our request is simple,” Teeter said. “Treat Expera as you would anyone else in the community. Bottom line, Expera is simply looking for a fair assessment. Currently, the assessment is more than five times what we paid.

“Essentially, when we bought this facility, the definition of market value was the value on which the property would be assessed,” she said. “That was our impression. It’s like if you purchased a home in the area, you would never want your home to be assessed at [several] times what you paid for it.”

City Manager Bill Mayo said Tuesday that if Expera’s assessment appeal is successful, the company could be granted a tax abatement amounting to $891,647. The company owes $1,064,913 in taxes for the year in question, city officials said recently.

The city’s current property tax rate is $20.21 per $1,000 of valuation. If nothing else changed — such as state revenue sharing and school funding — the city could see a tax rate increase of $1.85 per $1,000, or about 9 percent, to cover the lost Expera taxes, he said.

Beyond that, the impact is much less clear, Mayo said. If the state eliminates revenue sharing, Old Town might qualify for a “sudden and severe request” under Title 36 Section 208 that would adjust its state valuation, which plays a role in state aid for education.

The dispute boils down to the true market value of the property.

According to Expera, the purchase price for the Old Town mill “was the highest anyone saw as the value and is therefore the true market value,” Teeter said.

“The sale value is not some arbitrary value based on opinion. No one else would take the risk of restarting the mill, make the effort of bringing 180 family-supporting jobs back to Old Town and bring millions of dollars of spending back to local businesses — a much needed injection back into the local economy,” she said.

The value that Expera brings to this community is not just in the taxes, Teeter noted.

Had Expera not restarted the mill, Teeter said, the city would not be receiving back taxes and the community could have been left with a dead industrial site that, if left unheated over the winter, might only have been sold for scrap.

Based in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, Expera Specialty Solutions acquired the assets of the former Old Town Fuel & Fiber pulp mill on Dec. 5 during bankruptcy proceedings in U.S. District Court in Bangor. The deal was announced Nov. 11, a month after creditors forced Old Town Fuel & Fiber into bankruptcy, sending 180 millworkers out the door.

Expera created the company Expera Old Town LLC to purchase and run the facility through bankruptcy court. Employees started going back to work in January.

Because Expera purchased the mill through the bankruptcy court, they got a rock-bottom bargain as a purchasing price, City Assessor Travis Roy said last week, adding that a portion of the funds, about $3.2 million, went to prior debts, including $1.6 million in back taxes due to the city.

City officials recently hired engineering consultant and appraiser George E. Sansoucy from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to reassess the mill’s worth at a cost of $40,000. Mayo said last week that this will be done in three phases, with an initial draft report done by around June 1 and final report done by mid-July.

The last time the mill was assessed by an independent company outside the assessor’s office was 2007, Mayo said.

The appeal would then proceed to the three-member local assessment review board for consideration.

Should Expera fail in its effort to get its assessment lowered at the municipal level, it does have the option to seek relief in Penobscot County Superior Court.