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Limestone knocks mill rate down to 24.15

LIMESTONE, Maine — Members of the Select Board unanimously agreed to set the annual mill rate to 24.15 during a Sept. 5 meeting, marking a 1.75 reduction from last year.

A mill rate determines how much residents will need to pay in property taxes per $1,000 of valuation. A resident with a $100,000 home, for example, would pay $2,415 in annual taxes with a 24.15 mill rate.

Interim Town Manager Tom Stevens said Limestone was fortunate to receive an increase in property valuations but a lower minimum amount to be raised for the year, allowing town officials to set a relatively high overlay account of about $61,000 while also reducing taxes.

Compared to last year, the town’s total valuation base went up from $61,243,652 to 66,526,298. That base includes taxable value of real estate and personal property, as well as the homestead reimbursement value and total exempt value of all BETE, or business equipment tax exemption, qualified property.

On the other hand, the net amount for Limestone to raise via taxes (which includes, county, municipal, and education taxes as well as allowable deductions) went down from $1,551,190.52 to $1,542,294.74.

“We have a lower net amount to be raised, but our property valuation increased,” said Stevens. “That’s a very good mixture; that’s the mixture everyone likes to see.”

He then presented the board with four options for setting the annual overlay, which is an amount of money raised above the minimum tax commitment and set aside to pay tax abatements as well as unanticipated expenses.

His four options were: a $21,073.26 overlay at a mill rate of 23.5, a $37,704.83 overlay at a mill rate of 23.75, a $54,336.14 overlay at a mill rate of 24, and a $70,967.98 overlay at a mill rate of 24.25. Municipalities can not raise more than five percent of the net property tax rate, meaning that the maximum overlay for Limestone would be $77,114.74.

Stevens recommended that the board consider a 24.25 mill rate, as it would provide the town with a large overlay while still keeping local taxes down, adding that the town may need to consider setting aside extra money in light of a local movement to withdraw from RSU 39 and independently manage their school.

If Limestone does withdraw, the community would need to create its own school board, which Stevens said would need to work closely with the select board in determining a budget. He added that the town should also consider a new Public Works building and equipment in the future, as well as a new sand salt shed.

“For all those reasons I’m kind of nudging the board to a higher than average overlay,” he said. “At the same time, there’s still some tax relief. A rate of 24.25 is certainly lower than last year’s 25.90.”

Board member Fred Pelletier motioned to set the tax rate at 24.15, and said it is “somewhere in between” the interim manager’s two highest suggestions. Stevens said this would would result in an overlay of about $61,000.

“I look at this as financially responsible,” said Pelletier. “It will appease some, and not others, and it’s kind of down the middle.”

The board then unanimously agreed to set the mill rate at 24.15, and Stevens said that tax bills should be sent out “within the next several weeks.”

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