Ashland lowers mill rate, hopeful on business outlook

5 years ago

ASHLAND, Maine — The town of Ashland was able to lower its property tax rate by half a mill this year, as town leaders continue work supporting economic development along the Route 11 corridor.

The town of Ashland recently set its tax rate at $27.75 per $1,000 of property value, down from $28.25.

“What helped Ashland a lot was the school budget went down,” said town manager Cyr Martin. “We worked with the school district really hard.”

This year’s budget for Maine School Administrative District 32 saw a decrease of roughly $35,000 for its local appropriations. “That helped a lot,” Martin said.

The town’s $1.8 million budget saw some trimming, including savings from Martin serving as both town police chief and town manager.

“I’ll probably do that for another year and we’ll see how that goes,” Martin said.

The town also has brought in new revenue from sales of town-owned wood lots that have been subdivided into two acre parcels for camps and homes. Two acre lots along the Aroostook River sell for $8,000 each, while those on the Wrightville and Sheridan roads go for $4,000.

“In the last year, we sold 10. We’re shooting for another eight this year into next year,” he said. It brings tax money in versus land that we’re sitting on. It’s a pretty good deal for small towns.”

Some of the buyers are full-time residents, while others are purchasing them as seasonal properties, Martin said. Altogether, he said, the town owns about 4,500 acres of land.

Martin said there also are good signs on the business front.

The town has a new bakery open on Main Street. Called Mama Row’s, the bakery is run by Sarah Boushey and named after Rowena Burrill, a long-time local baker and cook who died in 2008.

At the town’s industrial park, Northeast Pellets, which suffered a fire last summer, is working to reopen its pellet mill this fall, the town manager said.

The town also is continuing to follow the search for business partners for the Ashland ReEnergy biomass electricity plant. While the ReEnergy plant in Fort Fairfield is in the midst of winding down its operations, the company is in discussions with potential business partners that could take advance of affordable power, heat and steam for manufacturing.  

ReEnergy and Emera Maine recently reached an agreement over electricity transmission charges for ReEnergy’s power. The agreement eliminates transmission charges through 2020.

“That’s given us more time to get more mills into our industrial park,” Martin said.