Verso's paper mill drops in value; Jay tax rate to rise

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JAY — The bad news just keeps coming.

Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere told selectpersons Monday night that she and assessing agent Paul Binette spoke to representatives of the town’s industrial appraisers, Corporate Valuations of Oregon, and the preliminary numbers are in on the value of Verso’s paper mill. 

The mill and associated property were valued at $357.9 million last year and this year, they are valued at $291.4 million, about $66.5 million less, she said.

Binette ran some figures but not all of them and came up with a preliminary rough estimate of $22.70 per $1,000 of valuation of property for a possible tax rate, $1.60 more than last year’s rate, LaFreniere said.

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This year, the Homestead Exemption for property owners who qualify will increase to $20,000, $5,000 more than last year.

However, the state Legislature decreased the initial proposed amount that towns were going to be reimbursed during budget negotiations, which means about $87,000 less than what the town anticipated receiving, Board of Selectpersons Chairman Terry Bergeron said.

If a citizen initiative article is passed on Aug. 14 to raise and appropriate $120,000 for curbside pickup of trash and recyclables, it will increase the estimated tax rate to $20.90 if all of the preliminary figures stay true, LaFreniere said.  

If the town didn’t have to reimburse the mill $1.33 million this year and the mill and property decreased in valuation, the town would be OK, she said. If the town had to reimburse the mill the $1.33 million and the mill valuation stayed the same, the town would be OK.

But both factors together means a higher tax rate, she said.

The town is in its second year of a three-year, $4 million settlement of a three-year overvaluation of Verso property.

Verso announced in July that it was permanently shutting down the No. 3 paper machine and permanently eliminating 120 jobs. The machine had been temporarily idled in January and the 120 employees were laid off.

Selectpersons are scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. on Aug. 15 to set the tax rate. By then, all of the numbers will be ready to be factored in, including whether the residents vote to appropriate the $120,000 for curbside pickup.

Selectpersons and the Budget Committee eliminated the money for the contracted curbside service in this year’s Transfer Station budget to reduce spending. Voters approved the Transfer Station budget of $330,450 as is April 25 by a vote of 364-271.

The town received a petition in June with 373 valid signatures of registered voters asking residents to raise and appropriate the $120,000 for the service.

Selectpersons voted 3-2 Monday to submit the warrant article as written to voters in August with the petition wording. Bergeron, Selectpersons Keith Cornelio and Gary McGrane approved the vote while Selectpersons Judy Diaz and Vice Chairman Tim DeMillo opposed.

Diaz wanted to get rid of the warrant and wait until a newly formed Solid Waste Committee could come up with an alternative option to pay for the service instead of using tax money.

It was discussed that the committee, which has only had one meeting, would not be able to develop options that were equitable and fair to everyone prior to the August vote. 

The next meeting of the committee is at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2, at the Town Office.

dperry@sunmediagroup.net

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