Wiscasset selectmen Tuesday night set the property tax rate at $20.08 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation, a four-cent drop from last year’s rate. Meeting on Zoom, the board took two votes to settle on a rate, first rejecting 2-3 the assessor’s recommended flat, $20.12 rate with a $44,316 overlay for abatements, then nodding 4-1 a $25,400 overlay plus carrying over $18,000 from last year, to reach about the same sum, but get the tax rate down to the $20.08.
Town Manager Dennis Simmons said while the budget was up for 2021-22, so were state aid and, by almost $11 million, Central Maine Power’s taxable value. He called the CMP change a prime example of what commercial development can do for local taxes.
Selectmen Pam Dunning and Terry Heller argued, aside from the millions of dollars on reserve the town taps for capital spending, the town should be building a bigger balance. Heller added, “When we lower the rate, it’s always difficult to raise it when that next time comes around.” Fellow member Kim Andersson said, with all that reserve not every town has, the town does not need “a giant undesignated fund balance” and should cut taxes. “That’ll make people happy, it’s been a tough year. We underspent (in 2020-21) and we ought to reduce that rate if we can. And we can.”
Simmons cautioned, costs are rising for “everything,” and the town is under pressure on wages. It just lost the police department’s administrative assistant to Augusta which will pay $7 more an hour, he said. Stephany Blodgett’s last Wiscasset work day is Sept. 21, according to her resignation letter the town provided Sept. 8 at Wiscasset Newspaper’s request.
“Honestly, I think either (tax rate) is a good step,” Chair Sarah Whitfield said. She, Jones and Andersson voted against $20.12 and for $20.08; Dunning, for $20.12 and against $20.08; and Heller, for both.
Also Sept. 7, selectmen named Evan Goodkowsky, Marty Fox and Carla Dickstein to the broadband committee; approved a business license for KDB Drywall & Home Improvements, 167 Bath Road; agreed to keep meeting via Zoom until the pandemic is under control; and agreed to have Simmons and Public Works Director Ted Snowden review the lone bid on winter sand, from Nathan Northrop Forest Products and Earthworks. The Jefferson firm’s bid per cubic yard was $14.75 or, if the town picks up the sand, $6.50, Simmons said.
Schoonerfest Co-Chair Peter Wells told selectmen, year one was a success last month, would need no town funds and he hoped year two would not, either. Simmons said the Schoonerfest committee did a great job. “I’m pleased and happy, and looking forward to next year,” Simmons said.
“It was a lot of fun,” Whitfield said of the five-day event.