NORWAY — Selectmen tabled a decision Thursday night on a request by a local Main Street business owner to reduce taxes on his property because the assessed building burned to the ground.
Officials will decide whether there are other avenues open to assist him.
Chris Farrar of Ari's Pizza & Subs on Main Street had asked the board in October for relief from a $1,934 property tax bill for 2011 because the taxes were based on a 13-room apartment house at 467 Main St. that burned on May 20. Farrar purchased the building and 0.16 acre of land from the property owner, Vira Micklon, after the fire that nearly took down his adjacent business.
Because the property was assessed as of April 1 when the building was still standing, but the taxes are for July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012, Farrar sought a reduction. The building itself was assessed at $120,000.
Selectman Irene Millett said she felt bad for Farrar and commended the work he has done to clean up the site quickly and restore it to an attractive section of the downtown area, but she said the law was clear that the taxes are due.
“This is a tough one,” she said of her decision.
The property taxes are the basis for much of the town's annual budget.
Millett said that based on calculations she made, Farrar is actually paying $4.47 each day, based on the town's $13.6 per $1,000 of assessed value. Using the number of days since April 1 that the building stood before the fire, Millet said Farrar is paying $1,004 for a building that no longer exists. The property will be reassessed next April 1 and at that time there will be no taxes on the building that no longer exists.
“In this case, there is no error,” she said of the ability of taxpayers to ask for relief if an assessment is incorrectly calculated.
Fellow board member Russ Newcomb said he agreed with Millett and said “it would be the right thing to do,” to help Farrar if they could but the law states the assessment is correct.
Town Manager David Holt said that townspeople may be able to petition the Board of Selectman to place an article on a town meeting warrant asking for the relief, but if that were done, taxpayers would have to pick up the amount of money that they agree to forgo from Farrar.
The board has directed Holt to determine whether such action can take place or if other means are available for Farrar before they take a vote.