April 07, 2020

Van Buren uses surplus money to lower tax rate

VAN BUREN – The dust over municipal expenditures and taxes is settling in this northern Maine town where the Town Council set the property tax rate at 21.5 mills Monday night.

That is down 1 mill from last year, and down 4.25 mills from earlier figures this summer. A special town meeting last month cut around $200,000 from a budget approved in June.

The property tax commitment, including schools and the town’s share of the Aroostook County budget, is $2,262,445.25.

All the cuts were made in the municipal area of the budget. The school budget was approved separately by residents of the three-town SAD 24. The Aroostook County budget is set by commissioners and the Aroostook County budget committee.

Residents agreed to use $50,000 of surplus money to bring the commitment down further than the $200,000 cut at the Sept. 19 special town meeting.

“We’re hoping to get the tax bills out by the end of the week,” Town Manager Larry Cote said Tuesday. “It will be next Wednesday at the latest.

“It will be a tough year, very tough,” he said. “That’s where we are at.”

The $50,000 from surplus lowered the tax rate by 1 mill. Cuts made at the special town meeting made up the other 3.25 mill rate cut.

Before the special town meeting, the municipal budget was some $205,000 higher than a state mandated property tax levy limit.

The local expenditures before any cuts were made were at $1,424,939.

The Van Buren Town Council had agreed on the 25.75 mill tax rate in August, using expenditures approved at the annual June town meeting. It was after that when the town’s violation of the property tax levy limit came to light.

The town had no choice but to have a special town meeting to get residents’ approval to override the limit, or make cuts.

Residents made cuts on Sept. 19. The special town meeting, where more residents turned out than at the special town meeting, took 31/2 hours to go through the budget.

In some accounts, such as local government, they went through the department’s budget line by line.

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