SKOWHEGAN — The Skowhegan Board of Assessors set the tax rate Monday afternoon at $19.04 for every $1,000 in property valuation, a modest increase that reflects a drop in value at the local paper mill.

The tax rate last year was $18.30, a difference of 74 cents for every $1,000 in value. The owner of a home valued last year at $150,000 paid $2,745 in taxes. This year that same homeowner will pay $2,856, or an increase of $111 in taxes for the year.

Town Manager Christine Almand said town officials worked hard to trim spending and used some surplus money to offset a drop in the value for taxation of the Sappi North American paper mill. Almand said in June that there would be a tax rate increase because of the declining tax valuation of the Sappi paper mill and the resulting reduction in Sappi’s tax payment.

“That $19.04 is the tax rate based on the dropping values in town,” Almand said after the 3-0 vote by the assessors. “The paper mill had quite a reduction this year, but we did some hard work to reduce some areas of the budget to help, as well as using some of the funds from surplus and some of the funds that were set aside for the Sappi litigation.”

After Town Meeting in June, the tax rate was estimated to be around $18.91 for every $1,000 in property value, which included voters taking $750,000 from “rainy day” surplus accounts to offset taxes in the coming year. Residents also agreed to take another $200,000, which was set aside last year in a reserve account and earmarked for a court battle with Sappi over valuation for taxation, to offset taxes and lower the tax rate further. The court battle never materialized.

Selectmen voted in March to cap the value for taxation at the paper mill at $380 million. The compromise represents an agreed upon $64 million in reduced value for taxation. Under the agreement, the town loses about $1.2 million in taxes for fiscal year 2016-17.

Residents at the 2015 Town Meeting agreed to take $1 million from surplus.

Assessors on Monday set the total tax value for the town of Skowhegan at $884,290,700, or just under $1 billion. The total tax for commitment, including schools, county and municipal government is $16,836,895, after state reimbursements such as the business equipment tax exemption, or BETE, said the town’s contracted assessor, Bill Van Tuinen. The commitment includes an overlay of $63,527 to cover uncollected taxes and future tax abatements, which works out to about 0.34 percent of the entire spending package, Van Tuinen said.

There also has been an increase in the state’s homestead exemption this year from $10,000 to $15,000, meaning property owners will save a little more this year over last year, Van Tuinen said.

He said any taxpayers who live in their own home as their primary residences can qualify for the homestead exemption.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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