April 07, 2020

Mill rate cut not all good news in Lincoln Higher home values mean many pay more

LINCOLN – If you think the town’s mill rate drop earlier this month from 22.66 mills to 18.24 mills is a good thing, you might want to guess again.

The new tax rate is spurring rumors of a mini-revolt in Lincoln as it fails to totally offset a town revaluation and housing market boom that increased the value of a house worth about $85,000 three years ago to $120,000 to $150,000, town officials said Wednesday.

The fundamental problem, Assessor Ruth Birtz said Wednesday, is that nearly all town residential properties were assessed at less than 70 percent of value prior to the revaluation.

“The only people in town who did not see an increase in their tax bill are mobile home owners, and that’s because mobile homes don’t appreciate,” Birtz said. “They go down.”

In a sense, Lincoln homeowners are paying for a boom period over the last year in which an unprecedented number of waterfront properties changed hands as they were sold, driving up the average cost of land as former shoreliners sold properties and moved to other parts of town, Birtz said.

State law requires assessments to reflect market value, and the state audits all municipal assessors such as Birtz annually to ensure that they are working market value into their assessments, she said.

Town Manager Glenn Aho had projected a new mill rate for 2006-07 of 17.70 mills, or $17.70 taxed for every $1,000 of property, but the town lost about $2 million in business equipment valuations alone, helping force the higher mill rate, Birtz said.

The new mill rate and revaluation have spurred talk by some residents, such as shoreliners, of seceding from Lincoln to form their own communities, Aho said.

“The rumor of seceding from Lincoln is rooted in frustration with property assessments,” he said. “I understand the frustration. I can empathize with their position, but that’s not the answer.

“Seceding for the sole purpose of lowering taxes is, in their case, likely to increase their taxes even more,” the town official said.

Residents in seceded lands, assuming the state Legislature approved secession, would have to hire a transient school superintendent, create their own boards of governance and contract with the county or other municipalities, such as Lincoln, for needed services – a likely heavy burden given that these costs wouldn’t be shared among 5,200 residents, Lincoln’s population, he said.

“In their case, there is an economy of scale that definitely works in their favor presently,” Aho said. “The problem lies with Maine tax laws, and no citizens initiative addresses a tax law.”

Correction: This article appeared on page B3 in the State edition.

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