May 24, 2019

Taxes to drop for most in Levant

LEVANT – Tax bills are set to go out next week, and although the mill rate is up slightly, most residents should see their tax bills go down, the town manager said.

The town held a dry run of the tax bills via computer on Tuesday, and the results were released to the Board of Selectmen at a meeting on Wednesday.

“The bad news is the mill rate is going up; the good news is the tax bills themselves are going down,” Town Manager Scott Pullen told the selectmen.

Changes in state funding of the homestead exemption program and an $80,000 increase in the town’s share of the school district budget prompted last year’s mill rate of $16.80 per $1,000 of valuation to creep up to $17 this year. The increase amounts to $20 for a property valued at $100,000.

Those most affected will be people who own vacant land, said Pullen, who described the increase as “not pleasurable, I guess, but not devastating.”

Those people who own homes and take advantage of the increased homestead exemption, which nearly doubled to $13,000 this year, will largely see their taxes go down.

“I think you’ll see the taxes went down, generally speaking $100 per property, assuming you have a homestead exemption on your home,” Pullen said.

Exceptions include people who have made additions to their home, like Selectman Brent Pullen, who will see his taxes go up. The selectman and town manager are brothers.

The town manager also reported on Wednesday that progress has been made in curbing illegal junkyards in town. Driving around town a few weeks ago, town officials identified nearly two dozen properties that violated the state junkyard and automobile graveyard ordinance and that aren’t permitted by the town.

Officials identified more potential violations, but Town Manager Pullen said they were looking into whether some properties may be exempt from the ordinance, as they are farms or garages. Still, there may be other properties that they have not identified.

“I won’t profess this is a complete list, but it’s pretty darn close,” Pullen said.

Letters have gone out to the 23 violators, who were asked to reply to the town to work out plans for them to come into compliance. The letter also issued a deadline of Nov. 1 for compliance or the town could start assessing fines of a minimum of $100 per day.

Pullen said he was surprised by the response he got. Seventeen property owners have contacted the town and one already has cleared up the problem. Six people have not responded yet, he said.

Illegal junkyards are a growing problem in many small communities and raise issues not just about aesthetics but also pollution and water quality as well as potential hazards, area municipal officials have said. Carmel has also sent out letters to property owners it has identified as being in violation of the law.

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