Bath tax increase just under 2%

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BATH — With municipal, county and school taxes combined, the city’s total projected property tax increase for next year is 1.9 percent – a hike of nearly $379,000.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the spending plan at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 17 in the City Hall auditorium at 55 Front St. The council is then due to vote on the budget at its June 7 meeting.

The growth of nearly $151,000 in the $15.7 million municipal budget is due to salary and benefit increases, along with the first bond payment for wastewater system upgrades, a $9.8 million project voters approved in November 2015.

Offsetting the spending increase in part is a shift in capital expenses, thanks to the city landfill being paid for through a $3.8 million landfill bond approved by voters last November.

The general fund could increase $133,000 to reach $10.5 million, while the capital and landfill funds could drop nearly $113,000 and about $103,000 to reach $885,000 and $1.8 million, respectively. The sewer fund could increase nearly $237,000 to reach $2.2 million, reflecting the wastewater system bond.

Of the $15.7 million municipal budget, $8.7 million could be paid through taxes, an increase of 0.73 percent. Sagadahoc County taxes are $1.7 million, a 0.37 percent hike, and Regional School Unit 1 taxes could rise 1.81 percent, to reach $10.1 million.

Total property taxes could have been $20.5 million – a 2.91 percent increase. But the city is reducing the real estate allocation to its Wing Farm tax increment financing district, freeing up about $200,000 to put toward reducing taxes, city Finance Director Juli Millett said in an interview Monday. As a result, the tax increase has been shaved to 1.9 percent.

“We can’t use it all,” City Manager Bill Giroux said of the allocation, noting by law, “you can TIF the value of something, and you have to use that for the uses that are outlined in the TIF, which all have to be economic development related. If you can’t use it all, then you’re supposed to reduce the size of the TIF to what you can use.”

With a 1.9 percent tax increase, Bath’s current tax rate of $21.10 per $1,000 of property valuation would increase to $21.50. A $200,000 home would see an increase of $80, although a home inthe Homestead Exemption program could see a decrease of approximately $30, Millett said Tuesday.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.