Rome property owners will see a 25 percent increase in the property tax bill they receive next week.

Last year, the owner of a house valued at $100,000 paid $740 in taxes. This year, for the same house, the bill will be $927, according to the tax commitment set recently by the town’s Board of Selectmen.

Several things caused the large increase, according to Richard LaBelle, second selectman. He cited a 23 percent increase in the town’s contribution to the schools as well as an undercommitment for town costs last year.

He noted that the municipal budget itself is almost 8 percent lower than last year’s, and the Kennebec County assessment is 9 percent lower. However, selectmen still had to raise a total of almost $2.5 million in local property taxes to support the operations of the town and school.

At the 2014 Town Meeting, voters approved spending $261,000 for a new firetruck and $45,000 for a new utility backup rescue truck. The plan was to use $166,000 in savings and raise another $140,000 in taxes to buy the trucks.

Kelly Archer, first selectman, said the tax commitment was miscalculated last year, which meant people weren’t taxed as much as they should have been.

“Taxes would have gone up slightly last year, so there wouldn’t have been as big a jump,” Archer said.

“In essence, we bought a truck last year we never paid for,” said LaBelle, who was elected to the board last month.

The size of the tax increase came as a surprise to Peter Serrada, chairman of the town’s Budget Committee.

“We didn’t buy any major things for the town (this year),” he said. “We know that the school is the main driver; 60 to 70 percent is funding the school.”

He said the information about the payment for the firetruck was news as well.

“We needed a rescue truck and needed a firetruck. We saved money each year,” Serrada said, adding that it’s important to provide emergency services in a small town. “I’m not happy and other people are not going to be happy, but if we bought these things, we have to pay for them.”

He said the Budget Committee works at trying to keep taxes low.

“Our job is to look over what the selectmen are proposing,” Serrada said. “Here in Rome we know a lot of people are living on the edge. We depend on our summer residents, the lake property residents, to fund about 50 percent of the town.”

In turn, he said, the year-round residents strongly support milfoil eradication efforts.

According to information on the town’s website, property owners can get a 3 percent discount for paying the tax bill by May 27.

The Regional School Unit 18 budget validation vote in Rome is set for noon to 8 p.m. May 19 at the Rome Town Office. The school board has approved a budget of almost $35 million for the district, which also includes Belgrade, China, Oakland and Sidney.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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