JAY — Selectpersons lowered the property tax rate Monday by $2 per $1,000 of assessed value, setting it at $18.25.

The board was given four options, ranging from $18.15 to $18.50.

The reduced rate reflects the first year of not having to pay Verso Corp. $1.33 million to settle a $4 million overvaluation of the Verso Androscoggin Mill and associated property.

Another reason the rate is lower is because of more state revenue-sharing, assessing agent Paul Binette told selectpersons.

A property owner who qualifies for the $20,000 homestead exemption would pay $1,003.75 on a home valued at $75,000, according to Binette’s information. It is $110 less than last year.

The owner of a house valued at $100,000 would pay $1,460 in taxes, a decrease of $160 from 2018-19, after factoring in the exemption. A house valued at $150,000 with the homestead exemption factored in, would be taxed $2,372.50, $260 less than last year, according to Binette.

The homestead exemption increases to $25,000 next year, he said.

The rate leaves the town with an overlay of $222,762.13, which can be used for abatements. Whatever is not used goes into the town’s undesignated fund balance at the end of the year and could be used to lower the following year’s tax commitment, he said.

There is about $6 million in the fund balance, Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said. The auditor recommends having at least three months worth of operating expenses on hand, and if there is a single taxpayer paying about half of the taxes, it is recommended to have more.

The town used some of its undesignated fund balance to pay $1.33 million in the first year of the three-year Verso settlement.

The rate also keeps the town nearly $300,000 under the $5.25 million tax assessment cap on the mill as outlined in the settlement. The cap for Verso’s taxes next year is $4.75 million, Binette said.

The mill and associated property is valued at $325.7 million for this year. It was valued at $292 million in 2018-19, he said.

The mill had been valued at over $800 million at one point.

From what he has read in the news, Binette said, Verso is planning do more investment at the Jay mill.

“We’re dropping the rate pretty good. I hate to bounce around next year,” Chairman Terry Bergeron said. He was considering $18.25 or $18.35 but voted with the majority on the lower rate.

The Verso mill is valued at a third of what it was in 2014, Binette said.

“I am pretty sure that this will make the taxpayers happy,” Selectperson Tom Goding said.

“We’re trying to maintain a harmonious trend as opposed to a roller coaster affect,” Binette said.


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