SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen this week agreed to spend $150,000 to hire a professional appraising company to assess the value of the Sappi Fine Paper Co. mill in the town’s battle over the value of the mill for taxation and the paper company’s abatement appeal.

MR Valuation Consulting LLC, with U.S. offices in New York, New Jersey and Florida, will begin the job in the coming weeks. At stake is about $137 million in valuation for taxes — the town of Skowhegan has assessed the paper mill for taxation at $463,630,900. The company claims the property should be taxed based at the lower value of $326,343,426.

The Skowhegan Board of Assessors denied a request in April from Sappi to cut the property tax value of its paper mill on U.S. Route 201 by more than $137 million. The board voted 3-0 on April 23 not to grant the abatement request, based on the recommendation of Bill Van Tuinen, the assistant to the town’s assessors, which would have resulted in the loss of $2.3 million in revenue for the town. An appeal to the town’s Board of Assessment Review also was denied.

The paper company later filed an appeal of that ruling with the Maine Board of Property Tax Review.

“The state board could agree that they’ve been properly taxed; the state board could agree with their value, or they could agree with something in the middle,” Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand said. The process could take another year to reach a conclusion, she said.

Almand said the $150,000 in the base price for the appraisal, plus a review of the appraisal report that Sappi submitted in March 2015 to the town, based on a report by Duff & Phelps. The company will charge another $395 per hour for expert witness testimony if and when the appeal goes before the Maine Board of Property Tax Review.

If the company prevails in its appeal, the town would have to refund some or all of the property taxes the company paid in 2014.

Almand said MRV Consulting was chosen based on Van Tuinen’s knowledge of the company’s reputation and that of attorney David Silk, whom the town hired in November. Silk is an attorney with Curtis Thaxter, of Portland.

Sappi filed a formal property tax abatement application last March with the town’s Board of Assessors, asking that the town lower its property valuation.

The request, filed by S.D. Warren Co., a subsidiary of Sappi and the legal owner of the property, followed months of negotiations between the town and the mill that resulted in a $100 million cut in the tax valuation of the mill.

Sappi claimed that reduction was not enough to reflect actual diminished value of the mill. Sappi paid $9.3 million in property taxes to the town in 2014.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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