MADISON — While town officials in Madison are still processing news of a dramatic loss in taxable property value at the local paper mill, school and county officials are saying there is little they can do to offset the financial effect this year.

“Unfortunately there’s just not a whole lot we can do,” said Todd LeRoy, superintendent for School Administrative District 59. “We certainly know where the pain is coming from and we want to help, but there’s just not a lot we can do right now.”

Madison Paper Industries was assessed at a value of $229 million in 2013 and will be assessed at $80 million in the coming year, according to William Van Tuinen, assistant to the board of assessors. Selectmen and the town manager were made aware of the change on Aug. 11 after school, county and town budgets were already set.

The community, like several others around the state, is trying to figure out what the change will mean for taxpayers and whether it will affect services.

It is unlikely that the school budget for 2014-2015, which was approved in June for $9.99 million, would be affected, but a tax rate increase could affect the following year’s budget, said LeRoy.

“This is a huge, huge cut to our assessed value,” he said. “I think it will definitely have an impact on where we go from here.”

For one thing, an increase in the tax rate could affect teacher contract negotiations next year, although it is too early to say what the impact would be, he said.

“Obviously we are going into a contract negotiation year so it will be important to go into negotiations knowing what kind of situation the community is in and trying to do what we can to aid the taxpayers through the negotiation process,” he said.

The budgeting process will follow regular protocol and will again include input from a community advisory committee, a new group that was started this year as a way for residents to have more say in the school budget, said LeRoy.

The district will also be looking to the Maine Department of Education and state legislators for help, he said.

The Madison Board of Selectmen is planning a Sept. 8 public meeting to discuss the tax rate. Meanwhile, a county official said the change is unlikely to impact county taxes or the county budget in 2014-2015.

“The county budget is already out and they didn’t bring that up,” said Robert Dunphy, a Somerset County commissioner who represents Madison. “However, it will definitely have an impact in the future on our budget and other towns in the county who will have to pick up the cost of Madison’s lower value.”

Madison is not the only community facing a prospective tax increase resulting from a drop in tax assessments at paper mills.

Officials in nearby Skowhegan and the Franklin County town of Jay are also in the process of assessing valuations for local paper mills.

Millinocket, in Penobscot County, is looking at a loss of $35 million from Great Northern Paper, about 15 percent of the town’s taxable value.

“There’s absolutely a concern over the value,” said Shiloh LaFreniere, Jay town manager. “That’s why people voted to raise money and pay for a new assessment to be done.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

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