April 07, 2020

Bucksport seeks to clarify funding policy> Tax-increment financing plan prompts confusion

BUCKSPORT — To nip in the bud the notion there is a “TIF money tree,” the Town Council is seeking to clarify its funding policies.

The town of Bucksport formed a tax-increment financing district with the local Champion International paper mill last April. Under the agreement, Champion will be reimbursed for 75 percent of the property taxes it pays on new investment in the district, while the town will use the other 25 percent to fund economic development or other projects, but only those meeting certain guidelines.

According to Councilor Lisa Whitney, “There seems to have been some confusion as to how and where the money goes.”

That confusion was illustrated in recent months when Dewey Meteer, director of the Bucksport Child Care Center, sought clarification of TIF policies at a Town Council meeting. Having requested TIF funds last February to expand the center, he said he was unclear on when a decision would be made, and how he would be notified.

As a result of Meteer’s request, and a separate inquiry, the Town Council decided to become more specific about procedures, Town Manager Roger Raymond said Monday. As such, it has approved new guidelines recommended by the local economic development and finance committees.

From now on, written funding requests addressed to the Town Council will be acknowledged in writing by Raymond within 30 days of their receipt. At that time, the applicant will be notified when the matter will be considered.

The town manager, economic development committee, and economic development director will identify which projects to include in the town’s five-year capital improvement plan. The committee will hold a public hearing on the plan to be updated annually.

Raymond said the issue of TIF policies is almost academic since only $4,000 has been generated by the agreement so far, and those funds have been dedicated to developing a business park, a project local voters approved last fall. Future funds likely will go toward recreational facilities improvements, which voters also favored.

When the TIF pact was formed, Champion planned to implement a $121 million capital improvement program over five years. The program has since been scaled back significantly, which means TIF funds generated could fall short of original projections.

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