Brewer’s property tax rate will decrease by $1 under the city’s new $16.7 million municipal budget, which councilors approved Tuesday. 

Although the new spending plan is more than 7 percent higher than last year’s, the city’s property tax rate will fall to $20.90 for every $1,000 of property value. This means a Brewer home valued at $200,000 will pay $4,180 in property taxes. 

While the city’s property tax rate is lower than last year, Brewer recently completed a citywide revaluation that raised housing values by an average of 15 percent, according to the city’s finance department. 

This means a home valued at $200,000 received a $4,380 property tax bill when the city’s tax rate was $21.90. In 2024, however, a $200,000 home may be valued at $230,000, and the new $20.90 tax rate will lead to a $4,807 tax bill. 

This is the fourth year Brewer has been able to lower its tax rate, which the new budget will place at pre-2014 levels, according to Stephen Bost, Brewer city manager. The city credits the lower tax rates to the competitive real estate market and inflating housing sale prices that are well above the city’s assessed values of properties. 

Most of the city’s budget hikes stem from inflating costs for utilities and services and the labor shortage the state has battled for years. The city’s electricity bill is up 44 percent, Bost said, which led to a $150,000 increase to the utilities budget. 

The city is also expecting insurance premiums for employees to increase by 10 percent in the new year, and that cost increase is made more apparent as more employees join the city’s insurance plan, Bost wrote in a memo to councilors.  

Brewer’s contribution to the Community Connector, the public bus service that serves Bangor, Brewer, Orono, Hampden, Old Town, Veazie and the University of Maine, will also increase by 20 percent due to higher labor costs and declining federal assistance, among other factors. 

Brewer councilors also approved the school department’s new $26.8 million spending plan — a 2.3 percent increase from last year’s — for fiscal year 2024 on Tuesday. 

The largest contributors to the school department’s nearly $480,000 hike over last year’s budget include a roughly $252,700 increase stemming from a contracted 2 percent salary increase, according to the department’s proposed budget documents. 

Increases to the school department’s electric and natural gas bills led to a combined $216,600 hike. 

The department also added three educational technicians to Brewer Central School and one to Brewer High School, leading to a combined $152,600 increase to the spending plan. 

Those larger increases are balanced by a $266,200 reduction in the department’s health insurance costs and another $210,000 dip from a reduction in out-of-district special education placements. 

The city’s Penobscot County tax bill also saw a $79,943 — or 6.2 percent — increase, which brings the bill to more than $1.35 million. 

This year, the largest increase on the county’s budget stems from a $1.59 million, or 28 percent, hike for the Sheriff’s Department to hire five new deputies, among other things. 

Over the last five years, Brewer’s annual Penobscot County tax obligation has increased an average of 6.2 percent per year, or just over $70,000 annually, according to the city.

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...