Town officials in Jay say that while there are still many questions about layoffs that the Androscoggin Mill announced last week, they hope to work with affected employees and town residents.

They also said Tuesday they’re concerned about the layoffs’ effect on the town’s tax rate.

“We don’t know the valuation impact to the town in order to adjust our tax rate,” said Vice Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Timothy DeMillo on Tuesday. “We don’t even really know who is impacted, other than that approximately 300 employees will be impacted, but we don’t know the who, what, when, where, why of that yet.

“We’re trying to prepare to help with that as time goes on, but we don’t have a lot of information to go on yet.”

DeMillo said the town has been in touch with the Wilton Career Center about the layoffs and plans to work with that organization as well as other state agencies when the layoffs go into effect.

The layoffs were announced by Verso Corp., which owns the mill and seven others around the country, last Thursday. The company plans to lay off 300 people at the mill in Jay, probably beginning in October, as they shut down two of the plant’s five machines. The company said it hasn’t determined yet which employees will be laid off. Employees at the mill are not represented by a labor union.

DeMillo said the effect will be felt by many businesses in the area.

“The economy is above and beyond just the mill,” he said. “There are restaurants, convenience stores, small businesses, gas stations that are probably going to feel some effect by it. Whether it’s because there are less people around to use the goods and services or if their taxes are affected by it, they will be affected by it.”

DeMillo said the town had no warning the layoffs were coming.

“We found out at the same time everybody else did,” DeMillo said. “The news was news to us at the same time it was to everybody else in the world. We had no forewarning, no ‘Hey, we’re going to be doing this,’ kind of thing. We found out basically the same time everybody else did.”

The mill makes up 65 percent of the town’s tax base, according to Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere; and it employs about 840 people, according to the company website. LaFreniere said she is not sure how many of those employees live in Jay.

The mill is one of several in the area to ask for reduced property valuations in recent years, along with Madison Paper Industries in Madison and Sappi Fine Paper in Skowhegan.

In 2013, the Androscoggin Mill was valued at $928 million and paid about $11 million in taxes. It saw a drop in tax value of about $200 million in 2014. Taxes also rose from $14 per $1,000 of assessed value to $15.75 in 2014.

“We always wondered, you know, what might happen over there, yes,” DeMillo said. “I think anybody who has a big mill in any town wonders what the next step will be with that industry. But as far as us being prepared for it and knowing something was definitely going to happen, we didn’t know anything was going to happen until it did.”

Officials are scheduled to set the 2016 tax rate next week, but both DeMillo and LaFreniere said they weren’t sure exactly what the layoffs’ effect would be. The mill also is appealing partly to the state the town’s denial of an abatement request about the mill’s 2013 taxes, according to LaFerniere. It also filed for an abatement on its 2014 taxes that the town denied and that has not yet been appealed to the state.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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