PARIS — Selectmen have vowed to let residents do the talking about cuts in the current budget after an unanticipated mill rate jump has upset many people.

Residents are invited to voice their ideas and concerns at next week’s budget workshop, which will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, July 27, at the Town Office, 33 Market Square, before the 7 p.m. selectmen’s meeting.

The workshop date was set at last week’s meeting after the mill rate — which was anticipated to remain flat at $17.90 per $1,000 of assessed value — increased to $18.30.

The assessments were done by RJD Appraisal of Pittsfield. 

Officials blamed the jump on the town’s recently completed reevaluation, after roughly 500 properties had their values adjusted, and the increased contribution to School Administrative Unit 17 budget. The initial plan was to absorb the school budget hike with money collected from increased property values in town. That fell by the wayside when some properties’ values decreased.

“We have 5,000 people out there,” said Selectman Robert Wessels during the July 13 selectmen’s meeting. “It’s very likely they’ve got some ideas we haven’t thought of yet.”  

He said the board would listen to residents’ ideas, but budget decisions would not be made that night.

Last week, many residents spoke out against the increased mill rate and higher taxes, including Terry Robinson. Her taxes were set to almost double after the reevaluation, so she had a hearing with assessors, which lowered the value on her house.

“I felt I was listened to and got a fair evaluation of the house at least. … And I got my (new) bill and it’s back up to that (amount),” Robinson said. “I am right back where I started,” she added, pausing a moment trying to gather her thoughts and hold back tears.

She invited residents to join her at the workshop to voice their concerns and said she would get more involved in town matters.

“It starts with me,” she said, adding that she and other residents feel powerless and feel their interests are not being served. “It starts with all of us participating. We need to be responsible for our budget. We have to live within our budget, and it’s at a point now that, OK, next year they’re going to vote another budget and the taxes are going to be raised again? I just can’t do it.”

Her remarks were met with enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Planning Board member and resident Franca Ainsworth echoed some of Robinson’s sentiments, noting that people should live within their means, and so should the town.

“We have to say ‘No, thank you’ to a lot of things that come across the table,” she said. “We’re the suckers who are paying for it all.”

Resident Forrie Everett said the town is “going to hell in a handbag” and residents are paying for the mistakes made by the assessors. He’s worried about the future of the town.

“What’s it gonna be when it’s a ghost town and you guys are talking to yourselves because no one else can afford to live here?” he asked selectmen and administrators.

Resident Peter Kilgore issued a challenge to selectmen for next year’s budget.

“I would like everything up front, even the mill rate, so taxpayers know when they go to town meeting what the mill rate is,” he said.

Selectman Vic Hodgkins accepted Kilgore’s challenge — with one caveat. 

“There is something called an overlay, kind of like a voodoo calculation (done) at the last minute … that could skew (the mill rate) either way,” he said, adding that the overlay is used to offset possible tax rate increases from property assessments and tax abatement hearings. “With that caveat, you’re on.”

Editor’s note: Terry Robinson writes the Person on the Street column for the Advertiser Democrat.

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