WATERVILLE — While some business and commercial property owners in the city said Wednesday they won’t be hit as hard as residential taxpayers after the recent property revaluation, they are still concerned about the tax increase many residential property owners will face.

The revaluation already has caused an uproar among many residential property owners and comes as city officials have stalled on the city’s $38 million municipal budget, which Mayor Nick Isgro vetoed earlier this month. The budget has been suspended after an affidavit was filed with the city clerk’s office notifying the city that residents are circulating a petition to repeal the City Council’s override of the mayor’s veto, though councilors say they probably will repeal that override Monday night.

City officials say the revaluation has shifted the tax burden to take the pressure off of businesses, which in recent years have shouldered more than their share. The city’s tax rate decreased from $27.80 to $24.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value with the proposed budget, combined with the revaluation.

City Manager Mike Roy said Wednesday that the revaluation shows a net gain of $100 million in valuation in the city. He said specific numbers should be available next week.

Isgro said Wednesday that the revaluation generally is “going to be a good thing for the business community.”

“That’s because for a long time they have been assessed at much closer to their full value than most residential homeowners were,” Isgro said. “Even if their values don’t change, they’re going to feel the drop of the mill rate to a much greater degree than someone whose home may have increased by about 30 to 40 percent in value.”

Several business owners and members of the business community said Wednesday, however, that while their taxes will stay about the same, or even decrease, many are also concerned about the effect of rising residential valuations on their employees and customers.

“I’ve heard from several people with residential property that they’re concerned,” said Mark Larsen, owner of Larsen’s Jewelery on Main Street. “For someone on a fixed income, it could be a big impact on their life.”

Larsen, who has owned the building at 57 Main St. for the last 10 years and occupied the space for the last 25, said that as a business owner, he’s looking at a small increase in valuation this year and expects to pay about the same amount in property taxes as he did last year.

Other business owners Wednesday also said they don’t expect a drastic change in the amount of taxes they pay on commercial properties.

Jay Doe, the owner of Uptown Hair Specialists, also on Main Street, said he also expects his property taxes to remain about the same. His business property valuation increased, but it was small — about $3,000 to $4,000. Doe wasn’t sure what he will pay in property taxes this year, but he said in general the taxes are high in the city and he has heard from residential property owners “who are irate about it.”

Mike Stair, chief operating officer of Care & Comfort, said taxes on the home health care service’s 180 Main St. building should “be pretty flat,” but they are still looking at the numbers.

However, there is concern about how the business’s 150 employees will fare.

“Really we’re more concerned over how things will affect our employees,” Stair said. “I think a large majority of them are Waterville residents, and we’re looking more at how they will be affected. We’ve been getting a lot of feedback from folks that they’re quite concerned — not just about their own property taxes, but also for people that rent, what the affect will be from their landlords.”

Garvan Donegan, an economic development specialist for the Central Maine Growth Council, said feedback on the revaluation from commercial property owners has been mixed.

“I’ve talked with some businesses whose taxes are going down,” Donegan said. “There isn’t really a uniform ‘This is good’ or ‘This is bad.'”

Some residents say they aren’t sure they would want to stay in Waterville, given the city’s high tax rate.

David Smith, who lives on Eustis Parkway, said the value of his house has increased by $60,000. He said he signed the petition asking to repeal the City Council’s override of Isgro’s veto. Residents have until Aug. 9 to file the petition with the city.

“If you were moving to this area and you compared tax rates, what would make you want to live here?” Smith said. “I think the residential portion is way too heavy. If you can buy a house that costs the same in Winslow, or Fairfield or Oakland, why would you buy here? It doesn’t make sense. They’re effectively chasing people away.”

Isgro said in his veto message to councilors that the budget — which includes about a $120,000 decrease in the amount of taxes to be raised — has to be reworked. Isgro said too many people already have a hard time with the city’s tax rate, which is the fifth-highest in the state, according to Maine Revenue Services data.

City officials say the revaluation, the city’s first since 1992, was necessary to balance how taxes are collected and also keep the city in compliance with state law, which requires municipalities to maintain valuations equitably and at least 70 percent of market value. Isgro said residential property values were around 80 percent of market value before the revaluation.

Charlie Giguere, who owns two downtown commercial buildings as well as three multi-unit apartment buildings in the city, said the property valuation for the Silver Street Tavern building at 2 Silver St. will drop about 5 percent; and his other commercial space, the home of Amici’s Cucina at 137 Main St., will stay about the same.

He said the value of his apartment buildings, though, have jumped from 5 to 30 percent.

Giguere said he understands the need for the change.

“It was time to make the adjustment,” he said. “To say that nothing has changed since 1993 doesn’t make any sense, and it does redistribute the valuation more fairly.”

Some members of the business community Wednesday said even if their property values aren’t going up much this year, taxes in the city are still high. Still, with a number of downtown changes planned for the coming months, particularly several projects that are being undertaken by Colby College, Donegan said the city is poised for an economic revitalization and that, overall, Waterville’s business community is in a good spot, despite recent challenges in attracting a strong workforce.

While the city of Augusta has a lower tax rate than Waterville’s, at $19.79 per $1,000 of assessed value, Donegan also noted that Augusta has had a net loss in population over the last five years, compared to Waterville’s growth.

“I think a long-term strategy to lower the mill rate, combined with the growth of the area and investors taking notice from the Greater Portland area, are all good signs,” Donegan said. “I’ve been getting a number of calls from people wanting to hear about the downtown revitalization process. They’re realizing real estate is getting priced out in the Portland and South Portland area and people are looking to the central part of the state, which is the city of Waterville.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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