Opinion

Local businesses and the tax base

Caribou is fortunate to have many exceptional local businesses. These home-grown companies are ones that support local events like Thursdays on Sweden Street, Little League, Momentum Aroostook, the Caribou Marathon and often contribute anonymously to other distinctive activities that enrich the unique quality of life in Caribou. 

 

David Levesque of County Qwik Print has a great quote about how local business works: “Please pay us so we can pay them, and they can pay you.” It’s true that when you shop at a local business, indeed you are keeping more money in our local area by fueling the cycle of investment. Please remember not only do these business owners go above and beyond to meet the needs of their neighbors by providing goods and services essential to the community, they also contribute a great deal to the tax base. This same tax base is the foundation for raising the necessary funds to finance municipal and county government as well as the local school department.

Local businesses include everything from corner stores to seasonal restaurants and of course the farmers who grow our economy all year round. These entrepreneurs deserve our continued support and patronage. This month, business owners will receive a mailing from the tax assessment department to list the machinery, equipment, computers, furniture and fixtures that are used in their operations. The business personal property is taxed at the same rate as real estate, and without this additional taxable value, the annual municipal tax rate would be higher for all taxpayers. Looking at the big picture, it just makes sense to spend your dollars at home where it can do the most good for our community.

If you own a business, please know that the tax assessment department is your partner. Staff are available to answer your questions, can visit your operation to help with listing your property and will assist you with determining what equipment may be exempt from taxation. Although the City Office is only open weekdays, staff can also arrange to meet with you at the wellness center or library during evening hours if that is more convenient. 

Department staff will have a special evening work session in the multi-purpose room at the Caribou Wellness Center from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17 (yes, it is St. Patrick’s Day and yes, there will be snacks), to answer any questions and help with form completion. 

Homeowners: do you qualify for property tax relief? In addition to the homestead tax exemption, which increases to $25,000 of value in 2020, other real estate exemptions include: blind persons and veterans (over 62 or 100 percent disabled) so it is worth a call or visit to determine your eligibility. Did you move to a new home since April 1, 2019? The office will need updated forms for your new address. The state of Maine reimburses the municipality for a portion of the revenue lost by administering these exemptions each year. The forms are the same for every municipality in Maine and can be printed from the Maine Revenue Services website. The filing deadline is April 1, 2020.

In all communities in Maine, April 1 of each year is “Tax Situs Day” which is the State of Maine’s way of saying that the tax assessor in your community will assess the value of your property based on how the property was situated on April 1. The good news is, if you start building a new garage on April 2 (don’t forget to get a building permit) and enjoy it all year, it won’t be assessed until next year. The bad news is that if you finally tear down that old garage on April 2 (don’t forget to get a demolition permit), you will be assessed as if it was there all year.  Please let the office know if there has been any change to your property. 

For example, with the heavy snows we have received this year, some structures have collapsed, the assessor may not know to remove value from your account unless you inform the office. If you have questions about your property value and the information on file, it is a good idea to call and make an appointment because many municipal offices have limited hours and staffing.  

Taxpayers in the City of Caribou are encouraged to contact the tax assessment office with property assessment and permit-related questions. Call 207-493-5961 (please leave a message if you get voice mail) or e-mail: pthompson@cariboumaine.org.

Penny Thompson is Caribou’s tax assessor and building official. She can be reached at 207-493-5961 or pthompson@cariboumaine.org.

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