HALLOWELL — The city’s rising budget, as moved forward earlier this month, will likely increase each property owner’s taxes by more than 8%.

While there is still a chance Hallowell’s proposed spending could be cut before the third and final reading scheduled for August, a backlog of capital expenses that have been delayed is catching up to the city.

Finance Committee Chair George Lapointe said a commitment sheet has not been mocked up for the budget approved July 8. A document from June 25 shows property tax rates dating back to fiscal year 2006 and three previous drafts of the current fiscal year’s budget. The drafts show possible property tax rates of $21.40, $21.50 and $22.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value — which are 8.6%, 9.1% and 12.1%, respectively — higher than the previous fiscal year’s rate at $19.70.

According to the document, Hallowell’s average property value is $182,000. In fiscal year 2018-2019, the average property would have been on the hook for $3,585.40 in annual property taxes. That same property would see annual increases of $309.40, $327.60 and $436.80, respectively for each scenario proposed for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

But that document did not show a scenario identical to the $6,474,883 in spending and $5,491,128 in estimated property tax revenue approved in July. The figure approved was in-between scenarios that showed $21.40 and $21.50 for potential property tax rates.

Finance Committee members Lapointe, Kate Dufour and Maureen Aucoin and City Manager Nate Rudy did not respond to a request for comment asking if those two figures were good estimates for the property tax rate.

Patti Burnett, owner of Dom’s Barber Shop, was unfazed by the increase. She said Tuesday that things cost more money than they used to and taxes are no different. She said she likely would not feel the strain of the tax increase.

Hallowell’s property tax rate was 19.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value in fiscal year 2006. It fell to $15.30 in fiscal year 2009, where it stayed until it increased to $15.70 in fiscal year 2013. Since then, it climbed steadily to $19.70 in fiscal year 2018, where it stayed flat the next fiscal year. The estimated increase this current fiscal year would be the largest single-year increase in that 14-fiscal year period.

The council approved the second reading of $6,474,883 in total spending on July 8, with $3,145,818 being municipal spending. Last year’s spending totaled $5,773,289, but city officials said the new budget contained important backlogged capital expenditures. The budget could see more cuts before the third reading, but Lapointe said earlier this month that he didn’t think there were many more “big ticket” items to cut out.

The council also moved forward $1,070,046 in municipal revenue, a 5.5% increase over last year’s municipal revenue of $1,013,895.

The council also approved $100,875.80 in offsets from the city’s tax increment financing on July 8, which would reduce the burden on the general fund.

The major increases — not line item totals — in the budget are:

• $10,250 in maintenance for administration, including a $6,300 increase in City Hall cleaning,

• $28,891 for a new assistant city clerk position,

• $9,831 in debt service,

• $42,801 in municipal insurance,

• $19,111 for water district hydrant contracting,

• $10,000 for winter road maintenance,

• $48,947 for professional assessments, including $30,000 for the city’s comprehensive plan and $5,000 for a consultant for the Hubbard Free Library,

• $23,837 in “community services,” and

• $267,300 in capital improvements, including $3,000 for a “clerk of the works,” $108,000 for culverts, $26,000 for the first year of a seven-year lease to convert to LED streetlights, $48,000 for the first year of a fire truck lease and $36,000 for the purchase of a police cruiser.

Former City Councilor Phil Lindley, who was last on the council in 2016, said he recalled specific conversations about deferring capital expenditures to keep the property tax rate flat. He said the council could have spent more money over the last few years to reduce the current budget year’s increase.

“(The increase) is likely a result over the last number of years of how many years have been a minimal mil rate change,” Lindley said. “When I was on the council, that was a palatable idea. I think the downside of it now is stuff that we didn’t maintain … is going to catch up with us.”

Lindley said Hallowell citizens care about the quality of town services and infrastructure and are generally willing to spend money to attain them. He referenced a $2.36 million bond approved in 2017 that funded, among five other projects, $600,000 of infrastructural improvements to Stevens Commons. He said a small group was very vocal in their opposition of spending public money on the property, but the bond passed because the silent majority was willing to foot the bill for improvements that would help the town’s infrastructure in the long run.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.