JAY — Selectpersons voted 4-1 Wednesday to set the tax rate at $20.50 per $1,000 of property value, a $3 hike from last year.

The decided to use $2.25 million from undesignated funds to avoid a higher rate.

A massive explosion rocked the Androscoggin Mill in Jay on April 15, 2020, ripping apart the plant owned by Pixelle Specialty Paper Solutions. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The major contributor to the new tax rate was the loss of valuation at the Pixelle Specialty Solutions paper mill following the April 15, 2020 rupture of a pulp digester, assessing agent Paul Binette of John E. O’Donnell & Associates in New Gloucester, said.

It led the Pixelle to permanently shut down a paper machine that had been idled since the explosion. The Pennsylvania-based company decided to not rebuild the digesters and wood pulp mill. The company still operates two paper machines that make specialty papers.

The valuation of the mill last year was $331 million; it’s $108.5 million for 2021-22. The taxable value of the mill real estate and personal property, after factoring in exemptions, is $86.5 million, Binette said. That does not include some other property the company owns.

The tax bill on a $75,000 house, after factoring in a $25,000 Homestead Exemption, will go from $875 to $1,025, an increase of $150, according to Binette’s information.

The bill for a $100,000 house, after factoring in the exemption, would rise $225, to $1,537.50, Binette said. And the bill for a $150,000 house, after factoring in the exemption, would be $2,562, up $375 from 2020-21.

The town will apply for a reduction in valuation through the state’s Sudden and Severe Disruption of Valuation Program, he said. It allows for an immediate adjustment to the town’s state valuation, which affects the amount of money the town will receive for Regional School Unit 73 and state revenue-sharing, Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said.

If approved, the lower valuation will be reflected in the state’s revenue-sharing program as of July 1, 2022. It will affect the school subsidy and Franklin County tax assessment in July 2023.

A preliminary estimate by the auditor is the town has about $7.8 million in the undesignated fund. Using the $2.25 million will leave an estimated $5.5 million.

Selectperson Gary McGrane asked if they could use $3 million from the fund to lower the tax rate more.

No one knows what the future holds, LaFreniere said.

“You hope for the best and plan for the worst,” Binette said.

McGrane opposed the tax increase while Selectpersons Chairman Terry Bergeron, Vice Chairman Tim DeMillo and Lee Ann Dalessandro and Tom Goding voted in favor.

The first half of taxes is due Oct. 1 and the rest on April 1, 2022.

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