JAY — Selectpersons voted 4-1 Tuesday to set the tax rate for 2017-18 at $22.50 per $1,000 of property valuation, an increase of $1.40 from last year.

Chairman Terry Bergeron, Vice Chairman Tim DeMillo and Selectpersons Keith Cornelio and Gary McGrane voted in favor of the rate. Selectperson Judy Diaz opposed because she believed they had done a bad job of budgeting.

The town’s assessing agent, Paul Binette, gave the board three tax rate scenarios, ranging from $22.50 to $22.70. Each one called for different amounts of overlay to be raised.

Among the board’s discussions was using money from the town’s undesignated fund to try and keep the tax rate neutral and not using any of the funds in case the Verso paper mill closes in the future. The town used $1.33 million from the fund as part of a $4 million tax dispute settlement to Verso Androscoggin LLC.

Under the $22.50 rate, an owner of a home valued at $75,000 and is eligible for a $20,000 Homestead Exemption would see a tax bill of $1,237.50, $28 less than last year, according to Binette.

An owner of a house valued at $100,000 with a Homestead Exemption would see a bill of $1,800, $7 more than last year. An owner of a house valued at $150,000 and qualified for the exemption would see a tax bill of $2,925, an increase of $77 from last year, Binette said.

In addition to setting the tax rate, the board approved raising an additional $108,973.71 for an overlay to be used, if necessary, for abatements and other eligible expenses.

The town had raised $140,000 last year for overlay but none of it was used, Binette said. That money was factored in as revenue to offset this year’s tax rate, he said.

After calculating multiple factors, the town needs to raise $12.4 million to meet its obligations. That includes $1.33 million for the second payment of a $4 million settlement with Verso. It also includes $120,000 voters approved Monday night to bring back curbside trash and recyclables pickup.

The tax rate factors in Verso’s temporary idling of the No. 3 paper machine prior to April 1, which resulted in a reduced value for the machine and the mill, he said. The company did not announce it would shut down the machine permanently until July. The reduction will be part of next year’s tax scenario.

The company previously shut down two other paper machines and related equipment. 

“Next year when we sit in this circle (to set the tax rate) we won’t have three machines. We hope to have two machines,” Binette said.

He meant that they hope Verso will continue to operate the two remaining paper machines at the Androscoggin Mill.

The paper mill and its associated equipment valuation continues to decrease.

The mill’s value this year is $291.4 million but after factoring state equipment exemptions of $34.41 million the value is reduced to $256.98 million in property that can be taxed, according to Binette’s figures.

After factoring in $47,236 for paper machine No. 5 in connection to a tax-increment financing district, the mill’s taxes are $5.76 million. After including the $1.33 million for the tax dispute settlement, it offsets the taxes owed to the town to $4.43 million.

The company had been operating under a 60 percent TIF but has been reduced to 25 percent because the No. 1 and 2 paper machines are shut down and are not meeting production thresholds under the 2004 agreement, according to Binette.

The town will apply for a third Sudden and Severe Disruption of Valuation Program to have the state lower the town’s certified valuation for 2018-19, Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said.

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