Opinion

Tax bills are in the mail

Much has happened since my last article including the July 20 tax commitment. The annual tax bills have been mailed and are currently due. Interest will start on any balance unpaid after September 30, 2020.

If you did not receive your bill, please contact the tax collection department at 493-3324, option 4.

As of the commitment date of July 20, statistics are: taxable value of real estate, $330,178,200. Taxable value of personal property: $13,307,900; total taxable valuation: $343,486,100. The 2020 property tax rate is .02355.

One responsibility of the tax assessment department is to approve exemptions prior to completing the valuation of the tax base. Partial real estate exemptions include the homestead, veteran and blind persons exemption. Business personal property exemptions like renewable energy and business equipment tax exemption (BETE) fully exempt qualified property. These exemption totals are then reported to the state for partial reimbursement on the Municipal Valuation Return (MVR). 

Other information reported on the MVR includes a valuation breakdown of taxable and exempt property with the tax rate calculation sheet, information on the valuation captured in the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, current use program information, explanations about unusual decreases or increases and general information about our municipal records. Maine Revenue Service uses this information for statistical analysis and will audit the information provided. 

Aug. 1 was the beginning of the Business Equipment Tax Exemption (BETR) program, a State of Maine program that runs until Dec. 31 for business personal property taxes paid in 2019. Forms for the program are online. It is a three-step process. Step one is to provide claimant information with a list of eligible property and submit to the tax assessment department. For the second step, staff will verify the asset list and provide the assessed values and then return to the applicant. The final step is to mail the completed forms to Maine Revenue Services with proof of payment. Reimbursement ranges from 100 percent to 50 percent, depending on the age of equipment. Please contact the tax assessment department at 493-3324, option 3, to determine if you have equipment eligible for reimbursement under this program.

Despite many factors being atypical this year, this department has approved 25 building permits including five new home projects. There have also been renovations, garages, deck and other residential outbuilding permits issued. Additionally, there have been several commercial projects approved. When you see a local business expanding to serve the needs of our local population, know that they are providing jobs at every level of the project. As in years past, it is Caribou’s agricultural community that is leading the way with adding value to the tax base.

When thinking about the contributions of Caribou’s agricultural community, I am reminded of this quote attributed to John F. Kennedy: “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” 

Farming has long been essential to the economic vitality of our area. Caribou farm families support our community with the real estate, personal property and excise tax paid on their farmland, buildings and homes, equipment and vehicles. As summer turns into harvest time, please show your support by being patient when your commute is delayed while farm equipment is moved from field to field. Today’s equipment is heavy and wide (and expensive) so it is a slow, difficult process to change fields or even pull over to allow cars to pass. 

We can all hope for good weather for the harvest and a robust market for their various crops.

I will close the article with this: “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness” (Thomas Jefferson).

And as always, if you have any questions about tax assessment or permits, please call me at 493-5961 or send me an e-mail: pthompson@cariboumaine.org. I am grateful every day to be in your service.

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

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