Council lowers city’s mil rate

14 years ago

Council lowers city’s mil rate

By Kathy McCarty
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — City Council held a workshop July 12, prior to their regular session, to review final figures, with councilors approving a reduction in the 2010 mil rate to 23.5 mils. That’s down one point from last year’s figure of 24.5. 

    City Manager Jim Bennett said councilors discussed the economic future of the city and what they’d like to see transpire over the next year.
    “They chose to stay the path they’ve been on for the past 10 years, asking me and my staff how to best proceed — how to best go on without a revaluation,” said Bennett.
    Bennett said the economy plays a big role in how cities and towns proceed with the revaluation process.
    “I don’t think it’s good to be making decisions at that level until you can see the economy has stabilized,” he said.
    If no adjustments are made to how property values are determined, “citizens wouldn’t pay more,” said Bennett.
    “But with slight adjustments, it’s primarily homeowners who’d be affected,” he said. “Taxpayers will see some changes in their tax bill — in part to the state’s adjustment in the Homestead Exemption.”
    The city’s assessor, Lona LaFrancis, gave councilors an overview of the city’s tax situation over the past year, citing new development in the area as the main reason for the drop in the mil rate.
    “Before any cost schedule changes were made, we had a net gain in real estate of approximately $7,197,600. This included eight new single-family homes, one duplex, completion of the Oak Street condos/townhouses, completion of the Hampton Inn and Theriault Equipment, a new Tractor Supply store, a new Grand Rental Station, a new veterinary hospital and a variety of changes in incomplete construction and outbuildings,” noted LaFrancis.
    LaFrancis said the Homestead Exemption adjustment also affected final tax figures.
    “The 100 percent value of the Homestead Exemption was reduced by the state form $13,000 to $10,000. At the city’s certified valuation of 95 percent, this is a value reduction from $12,350 to $9,500. This shift from exempt to taxable value increased our taxable value by $2,890,925,” LaFrancis said.
    As a result of all the changes made, LaFrancis said the city’s tax base has increased from $490,641,745 to $529,468,470.
    “These changes should result in a reduction in the mil rate of approximately 1 mil. This does not mean that taxes are going down,” said LaFrancis.
    The state’s adjustment to the Homestead Exemption will factor into whether taxpayers actually see a decrease in what they owe for taxes.
    “Most residential-type properties will see an increase in taxes, due in part to the reduction in the amount of the Homestead Exemption, in part due to adjustments that were made to the cost schedules to improve equity and bring us closer to 100 percent of value and in part due to a higher county tax, a higher cost for SAD 1 and less revenue sharing from the state of Maine,” said LaFrancis.
    With the workshop concluded, councilors approved setting the mil rate at 23.5 percent.
    In other news, councilors:
• Approved a malt, spirituous and vinous liquor licenses for: RT New England Franchise, LLC, d/b/a Ruby Tuesday, #7156, 830 Main St., Aroostook Centre, D-14; and Xin Chen, d/b/a My Tai Inc., 449 Main St.;
• Approved special amusement permit applications for: KBS Enterprises, d/b/a Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center, 116 Main St.; and Hampton Inn Presque Isle, 768 Main St.;
• Listened to comments from Geary Bonville regarding his proposal, including fees he’d charge, to handle the city’s scrap metal disposal;
• Moved to extend the moratorium on first-floor apartments in the downtown business area, as recommended by city staff;
• Approved labor, equipment and cash/loan donation totaling $15,000 for the Nordic Heritage Center, with a vote of 6-0-1 (Councilor Walt Elish abstaining, due to being on the board of trustees for the center);
• Discussed library expansion, approved project budget, authorized bid specifications for bid alternative for energy efficiency improvements and authorized city manager to sign escrow agreement;
• Approved tower lease agreement with two amendments: one concerning the sublease, the second involving language regarding the two current users which should not pay any rent. The vote was 4-3, with Councilors Mel Hovey, Emily Smith  and Calvin Hall opposed;
• Discussed updating the welcome sign north of the city, with councilors supporting seeking donations, with the city matching up to one-third of the cost in order to get the project done;
• Authorized request for bids for the sale of a parcel of land at the end of Canterbury St.;
• Received an update on horse manure ordinance from Police Chief Naldo Gagnon, who indicated it would be “difficult to enforce;”
• Received an update on crosswalk issues, including the timing of annual painting projects;
• Heard comments from a citizen proposing a dog park, with councilors agreeing such could benefit the community;
• Approved an easement prepared by the Presque Isle Sewer District for Dyer and Parsons streets;
• Authorized the city manager to enter into a purchase agreement with Aroostook County Action Program for the sale of the former Gouldville School, 44 Park St, at a purchase price of $165,000;
• Approved creating an economic development fund for use by the city from the remaining proceeds from the sale of Gouldville School, by a vote of 4-3, with Councilors Mel Hovey, Randy Smith and Emily Smith opposed;
• Authorized sale of basketball court area on Route 1/Main Street (in front of the outdoor pool) to Haines Manufacturing Co., Inc., for the sum of $20,000;
• Approved utilizing funds from sale of basketball court to purchase materials to construct a parking area at Peace Park (located off Airport Drive), not to exceed $5,000; and
• Approved various consent agenda items.
    The next scheduled City Council session will be held Monday, Aug. 2, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
    The meetings are open to the public and participation is encouraged.
    For more information, call 764-4485.