SKOWHEGAN — The town has lowered the assessed value of the Sappi Fine Paper North America mill, but the result wasn’t as big a hit to town taxes as some feared it would be.

The Board of Assessors set the value of the mill on U.S. Route 201 at just more than $463 million — down from the previous assessment of $567 million.

The board also raised the tax rate from $16.40 for every $1,000 in property valuation to $17.15, meaning a family with a home valued at $100,000 will pay $75 more in taxes than it did last year.

It also means that Sappi, the town’s biggest taxpayer, will now pay about $7.94 million to the town in taxes, or about 48 percent of the total taken in each year.

Last year Sappi paid $9.3 million in taxes, or 53 percent of the total.

“I believe that a lot of people felt it was going to be a worse situation,” Town Manager Christine Almand said after the vote. “I think $17.15 is something I can be happy with.”


The assessment revisions to the paper mill were completed by the town’s assistant to the Board of Assessors, Bill Van Tuinen, after Sappi earlier this year requested a reduction in valuation so the company’s taxes would be reduced.

Contacted before Monday’s meeting of the town assessors, Mark Hittie, Sappi director of marketing and communication, said he could not comment. An email for comment sent following the meeting was not immediately returned.

Assessors would not predict if the paper company will challenge the new figures, but noted that voters agreed at town meeting to use $300,000 to pay for court and attorney fees if a challenge is mounted. Van Tuinen said the paper company did not ask for an abatement on taxes already paid.

VanTuinen said the basis for Sappi’s request for reconsideration of the mill’s tax value was spurred by reduced demand for printed paper.

“People are communicating more and more electronically and less and less by the printed page,” he said in June. “That is having a negative effect on the printed paper industry. It’s a rough time being a paper manufacturer.”

Sappi also announced in May it is cutting 5 percent of its workforce nationwide, including an undisclosed number of positions at the Skowhegan mill. The job cuts come in response to a challenging market environment and further steps to reduce costs, the company said.


Board Vice Chairman David Summers said the new tax rate is better than what many people had been bracing for.

“I’m kind of pleased,” Summers said. “I actually thought it would be going up more — a higher rate.”

Board member John Grohs agreed.

“I feel better about it. Nobody wants to pay any more out of their pocket than they have to,” he said. “Times are tight.”

The municipal budget, not including the county tax or the town’s share of school spending, is $8,978,164.

Skowhegan pays 20.4 percent of the total Somerset County budget, paying $2.3 million in taxes. Of the total assessment for School Administrative District 54, Skowhegan pays about $8.86 million.


In voting at the annual Town Meeting in June residents agreed overwhelmingly to take $1 million from town surplus accounts to offset taxes in the coming year, leaving $2.9 million in surplus to be used when needed.

The fiscal year began July 1.

Tax bills will go out in about a week, Almand said.

Summers said the reduction in Sappi’s assessment is not as much as the reduction in Madison Paper Industries’s assessment in neighboring Madison.

The larger reduction in the valuation of the Madison mill is because it makes a special thin “super calendered” paper product that is sold to a niche market. Sappi, he said, makes a glossy coated paper, which is more commonly used.

“That paper just fell out,” he said of the super calendared paper. “That kind of paper has taken a bigger cut than any other kind of paper.”


In August, Madison selectmen learned from that town’s Board of Assessors that the value of the local paper mill, the town’s largest taxpayer, had dropped from $229.7 million in 2013 to $80 million.

That means that the total assessed valuation of all property in town, which was $485 million in 2013, will drop to $335 million this year.

Madison is considering a tax rate increase from $17.53 per $1,000 of assessed value to $23 per $1,000, a hike of about 30 percent. Selectmen are proposing a plan for the town to establish a line of credit and borrow money in order to mitigate the effects on taxpayers of the drop in valuation of Madison Paper Industries.

Madison residents will be asked at a special town meeting to approve establishing a revolving loan that will allow the town to spend, borrow and pay back up to $2.5 million as needed. The special town meeting is scheduled for Sept. 16. Town officials also are appealing to state lawmakers for assistance.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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