City councilors approve budget and lower tax rate

10 months ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Presque Isle City Council approved the annual tax commitment for this year and previewed the new city website during its meeting Wednesday night, July 5.

The council approved a total budget of $17,245,802, which includes expected revenue of $9,422,533 and a total of $7,823,269 raised in taxes. This includes a reduction of the mill rate to 22.60 from last year’s 23.75 and lower than the city had budgeted for last year.

Airport fund total expenses of $3,333,248 and total revenue of $3,427,812 for a profit of $94,564 to be included in the city’s general fund.

“We believe there’s an extra $200,000 that’s going to come to the city of Presque Isle through the state revenue sharing,” City Manager Martin Puckett said.

Presque Isle assessor Lewis Cousins talked about how LD 290, An Act to Stabilize Property Taxes for Individuals 65 Years of Age or Older Who Own a Homestead for at Least 10 Years may be repealed and replaced by LD 130, An Act to Eliminate Senior Citizen Property Tax Stabilization and Expand the Homestead Property Tax Exemption that hasn’t been voted on yet in the Maine Legislature.

Under LD 290, property taxes would be frozen for people who are at least 65 years old and have owned their homes for 10 years. The state would pay the difference between the new assessment and what the senior citizen paid. Some feared the program would become too expensive for the state to sustain it.

LD 130 would increase the homestead property tax exemption instead of freezing property taxes, effective April 1, 2024.

City councilors approved using Presque Isle International Airport reserve funds not exceeding $30,000 to replace a 14-year-old ATV with a new one. The airport uses it to tow equipment.

The council approved using $125,000 in COVID-19 relief funds toward marketing Aroostook County and New Brunswick through Presque Isle International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration COVID-19 relief funds were designated for lost revenues but Presque Isle Airport didn’t experience losses like most airports in the state because of its landing fee agreement with United Airlines that guarantees a minimum monthly revenue, according to Scott Wardwell, airport director for Presque Isle International Airport.

In 2021, the FAA told Wardwell that the COVID-19 relief money can be used for airport expenses and a similar transfer had been made into advertisement. The COVID-19 relief funds for Presque Isle Airport started at $3 million and is now shy of $2 million, Wardwell said. The airport already spent $1 million on maintenance projects.

A preview of the newly designed Presque Isle city website was presented to the council. Some features include links for people to apply for city jobs and board committees, along with fillable forms for a variety of business permits and registrations for vehicles. Residents will be able to pay real estate taxes through Presque Isle’s payment portal.

Once the website goes live, a calendar will highlight upcoming city events like planning board meetings and organizations can upload their happenings to the city calendar. The events aren’t just limited to those in Presque Isle, Puckett said.

The city councilors went on to approve a public hearing for Aug. 2, to amend chapter 43 for the Planning Board ordinance and Planning Board bylaws.

Part of the draft sample presented at city council was that the Planning Board needed to have a voting procedure in place, add a secretary position for the board, and give the chairperson the ability to call for ad hoc committees to look at special assignments in their jurisdiction in greater detail.

City council voted to approve a marijuana license renewal to Joe Pelkey and Chase Norton for Star City Wellness located at 694 Main St. and a taxi cab service license for Jeff’s Taxi in Presque Isle.

Lodging establishment licenses for Martin’s Manor Rentals LLC at 42 Winter St. and Clark’s Lodge at 22 Pleasant St. were approved in a 5-0 vote with city councilor Craig Green recusing himself citing a conflict of interest.

City councilor Kevin Freeman was absent from the Wednesday, July 5, city council meeting.