LEWISTON – Property values will drive up taxes for five of every six homeowners in the coming fiscal year, according to City Administrator Jim Bennett.
The city is scheduled to begin mailing new property value notices to Lewiston property owners today. Bennett said those notices should begin arriving Saturday.
They’ll show a new citywide valuation of about $2.3 billion, up $916 million from last year.
Bennett said the new valuation shows an increased burden on residential property owners, despite earlier forecasts.
That’s because assessors had overestimated the amount of personal property in Lewiston businesses. As a result, the new average property values on businesses look to increase by 101 percent. Meanwhile, average property values for Lewiston single-family homes look to increase by 108 percent.
“We did not anticipate that change,” Bennett said.
Bennett has scheduled a meeting with media today morning, and said he would release detailed information about individual property values then. A map showing projected property values should be on the city’s Web site, ci.lewiston.me.us, by the close of business Friday.
The new values put additional pressure on the City Council as they continue working to settle their fiscal 2006-07 budget. As of Thursday, that budget is calling for $40.6 million property tax collections citywide. That’s roughly the same amount of taxes collected last year.
“The point we’re trying to make, is that taxes are going to increase and it’s not because of the budget,” Bennett said. “It’s because of property values. But if you want those taxes to go down, you need to cut the budget. If you want to reduce them by 10 percent, you have to cut $4 million out of the budget.”
School officials urged councilors not to look for additional property tax savings by trimming their budget. Superintendent Leon Levesque said the school’s $41.1 million budget returns $270,000 to the city. That’s state money designed to reduce the city’s property taxes.
Councilor Mark Paradis said he’d like to see the schools trim their budget by another $126,000.
“That would be saving pennies, but shooting ourselves in the foot,” said School Committee Member Dennis Grafflin. Further cuts are unnecessary and would only hurt the schools, he said.