2017-07-21 / Front Page

Tax man giveth

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

The recent state shutdown appears to have done some good after all, at least in RSU 21.

The budget deal brokered over the long July 4 holiday weekend between warring factions of the state legislature and Gov. Paul LePage resulted in an extra $162 million in general purpose aid for local school districts over the next biennium.

Of that, $48 million is to be doled during the current fiscal year, with the remaining $114 million to come in fiscal year 2019.

According to a July 17 letter distributed to parents by school superintendent Katie Hawes, while 60 school districts across Maine saw no net change in their annual subsidy, RSU 21 can expect an extra $572,978 to flow into its coffers thanks to the legislative largess.

However, Hawes said that rather than spend the windfall, the school district will gift it back to the towns that make up the district, in order to reduce this year’s tax burden.

The school board’s finance committee voted unanimously back in May to recommend any additional funds be applied in just that fashion.

“On Aug. 7, the RSU 21 Board of Directors will vote to approve the amount,” Hawes wrote. “Following that vote, each town will determine how and when tax bills will be adjusted. We are pleased to be a district that will receive additional funding and to have the opportunity to return those funds to the taxpayers in our three communities.”

Based on the funding formula used by the district, Hawes said what now amounts to a rebate will divvy $404,268 to Kennebunk, $86,778 to Kennebunkport and $81,932 to Arundel.

Attempts to reach Kennebunk Finance Director Joel Downs were unsuccessful. Kennebunkport Town Manager Laurie Smith said the school board’s refund vote will take place before the annual tax commitment is set, resulting in a tax rate that should ring in 5 cents lower that expected.

The mil rate had been expected to climb from $8.28 per $1,000 of assessed value to $8.61. Backing off 5 cents basically wipes out the amount of the tax rate increase attributable to the municipal budget, which was 5 cents of the 33-cent increase.

In Arundel, Town Manger Keith Trefethen said the money will mean a reduction in the tax rate of 19 cents per $1,000 of property valuation.

Trefethen has previously estimated the coming tax rate at $15.77 per $1,000 of assessed value — an increase of 65 cents, with 33 cents of that attributable to the second contract deputy annual town meeting voters agreed June 14 to hire from the York County Sheriffs Office. In other words, the school refund will pay for more than half of the beefed up police patrol.

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrigton can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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