AUBURN — A plan to send out $300 relief checks to homeowners is moving forward after recent property valuation adjustments led to higher tax bills for many.

The proposal, laid out during a City Council workshop this week, would use $1.5 million from the city’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act.

City Manager Phil Crowell said after receiving requests from officials to create some type of relief program, city staff looked at options.

The program would most likely use the state Homestead Exemption program to determine eligibility.

Crowell said that would apply to roughly 4,000 property owners.

According to Joseph St. Peter, deputy city assessor, on average the $300 check would cover about one-third of the adjustment. For some, it could even out the increase they saw on their tax bill. For others, it could be just a small bit of relief.


Crowell said some homeowners may have seen $2,000 increases.

The city sent out notices regarding the valuation adjustments in early July, stating that year-over-year increases in home sales prices forced city staff to make the adjustments to meet state requirements.

Since then, the city has been flooded with inquiries, prompting a response from elected officials.

During the workshop Monday, Councilor Steve Milks said while “most people realize they’ve had appreciation in their property” in recent years, the biggest complaint he’s heard is the lack of warning from the city.

“It surprised a lot of people,” he said.

The city held a virtual town hall meeting on the adjustments this month, and will hold a live meeting on the issue on Sept. 7 at the Auburn Senior Community Center.


Crowell said if approved by the council in September, the majority of checks would be received by residents by Nov. 1.

Brian Wood, deputy city manager, said Wednesday that he anticipates the proposal to be on a September council agenda.

The only concern raised by officials Monday was for creating “an instant $300 increase” for property owners next year when there is no relief program.

Several officials said it’s a signal that Auburn must increase its tax base, or face increasing taxes or cuts to city services.

Mayor Jason Levesque said the program should be looked at like a “12-month relief,” and that officials should use that time to start increasing the tax base.

Levesque said the city’s moves to allow accessory dwellings and more variety of housing types will help.

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