Town of Orono welcome sign

Orono’s property tax rate will increase 6 cents under the town’s new spending plan, which councilors unanimously approved Monday night.

The new $15.2 million municipal budget is up 7.65 percent, but municipal revenues are also up — nearly 18 percent, according to information provided by Town Manager Sophie Wilson. That means that overall, the budget is down 6.65 percent, and about $5.5 million needs to be raised by taxes.

A home worth $200,000 will see its tax bill increase $12 in 2024.

Considering Orono’s current tax rate, which is $23.80 for every $1,000 of property value, a home valued at $200,000 received a $4,760 tax bill. Next year, the new $23.86 tax rate would result in a $4,772 tax bill.

In neighboring communities such as Bangor and Brewer, the tax rates are decreasing, but because of climbing property values, residents can expect a significant increase in their tax bills. Orono’s property values are projected to grow $1.5 million, or 0.26 percent, which is relatively flat and doesn’t reflect as drastically on homeowners.

The town did a revaluation in fiscal year 2022, which added almost $60 million in property value, Wilson said.

“Understand that this is all projection,” the town manager said. “We are anticipating more value coming on. It is very likely that we’ll do a market adjustment, which would bring everyone’s value up. The mill rate might be lower, but we’re anticipating an impact to the taxpayers equivalent to 6 cents on their current value.”

State municipal revenue sharing — a program that distributes 5 percent of Maine’s revenue collected from sales, personal and corporate income taxes to municipalities to keep pressure off property taxpayers — is likely to make a major difference in Orono next year. The town expects to receive $4.6 million in revenue for the town, a more than 39 percent increase from the previous year.

Orono will receive slightly more in revenue sharing than other municipalities, Wilson said, though she does not expect to see that in the future.

Also at Monday’s meeting, councilors approved a $2.2 million budget for the Orono Water Pollution Control Facility — the town’s wastewater treatment plant — which includes operations costs and capital improvements.

Mainly user fees fund the facility’s operation, though grants cover a small amount, Wilson said. Councilors passed a sewer user fee increase from $5.90 per 100 cubic feet to $6.25 per 100 cubic feet, with a minimum quarterly charge of $75, which is effective July 1.

Councilors also approved five-year capital investment plans from 2024 through 2028, which is how the town plans for equipment and other major purchases, as well as maintenance of its buildings.

“I think based on what councilors have said during this process, they are concerned about the stability of a budget that continues to grow several hundred thousand dollars a year,” Wilson said. “They are looking for ways to make changes to have a budget that is more in line with annual [inflation].”