Paris property abatements cause tax hike

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PARIS — Because so many residents asked assessors to lower their recently hiked property values coupled with a school district budget spike, the mill rate will increase by 40-cents per $1,000 instead of remaining flat, Interim Town Manager Michael Madden confirmed Monday.

There were at least 300 abatement hearings after the new values and proposed tax bills went out to residents and businesses, Town Assessor Jerry Samson said Tuesday. Roughly 500 of the 3,000 accounts in town saw values decrease as a result of that process.

That means Paris’s mill rate will jump from the current rate of $17.90 per $1,000 of assessed value to $18.30, Madden said.

Selectman Janet Jamison said when she first heard the news, she was disgusted.

“Now everybody is effectively getting a tax increase. … I wanted to know what we could do to keep the mill rate at $17.90. My thought was, ‘What are we supposed to cut,’” she said, noting she’s already received phone calls from residents on the matter. “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Selectmen want to hold a workshop to get the public’s input on the situation and, Madden says, it is in order.

“Unfortunately, after the adjustments were made following the reevaluation hearings, the town was unable to absorb the (School Administrative District 17) increase,” he said by email. “The selectboard is very concerned and feels the proactive approach is to hold budget workshops with the public’s input to minimize the burden to the taxpayer.”

The reevaluation process began in August 2014 by RJD Appraisal of Pittsfield. Initially, the company estimated the town’s overall value jumped by $19 million, from $336 million to $355 million. But with adjustments to the reassessments, that has decreased to $338 million, meaning the town’s value only increased by $2 million since the last reevaluation in 2007, Samson said.

During the abatement process, if a lot of homeowners came in and complained about the rate and their houses were all the same size, RJD decided to look at all of them, Samson said.

“They didn’t give people a hard time. They tried to work with them (even though when) the value goes down, the mill rate goes up,” he said. “For example, if you you need to raise $1,000 and you have each house assessed at $100,000, if there were 10 houses there, in order to raise that $1,000 everyone would have to pay $10 a piece. But if you lowered their value, they’d have to pay twice as much.”

The second factor for the mill rate jump is the town’s increased contribution to SAD 17, town officials emphasized.

For fiscal 2016, Paris will contribute $2,877,723 to SAD 17, Superintendent Rick Colpitts said Tuesday. This is represents an increase of more than $158,000 from last year’s budget. Of the eight towns in the district, Paris has the most students with 734.

“The interesting thing is they’re not paying on the number of students they have. They’re paying on the assessed value of their property,” Colpitts said. “I understand when the school budget is taking up half of the municipal tax burden then we’re an easy target for them to blame, but in reality our budget is up two percent … and they’re the ones stuck collecting on our behalf. It was what the taxpayers voted to support.”

Jamison said she supports Selectman Robert Wessels’ suggestion to hold a workshop on the mill rate to see what residents think.

“It won’t be a time where we make any decision,” Wessels said Tuesday. “Our goal is we won’t be doing a whole lot of talking during that meeting, we will do a lot of listening.”

More information regarding these plans will be discussed at the upcoming selectmen’s meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, July 13, at Town Office, 33 Market Square, Madden said. If the rest of the board is agreeable, a time and date for the workshop will be set during Monday’s meeting, Wessels added.

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