News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 4, 2022
Castine property tax rate set at $13 per mille; bills coming soon
Town’s valuation at $253 million

by David Avery

At the select board meeting at Emerson Hall on August 1, the town’s tax commitment for 2022-2023 fiscal year was approved.

Tax bills will be appearing in mailboxes soon, according to town Finance Officer Karen Motycka. Payment will be due by Friday, September 16, a date that voters approved in May also, she added.

Following the updated assessments of properties that have been improved since last year, the town has set the new property tax rate, or mill rate, at $13 per $1,000 of value. The tax rate is established to cover the budget that voters approved at Town Meeting in May. Thirteen dollars per $1,000 is an increase over last year’s rate of $11.40 per $1,000.The updated assessments added about $1 million dollars to the the town’s total property valuation, which now stands at more than $253 million.

In other action, the board approved an amusement license for the Leggs of 19 Pleasant Street to have live music on their property on Friday, August 12, from 5-7 p.m. The board also renewed the liquor license for the Castine Inn on Main Street.

After tabling the action at the last meeting, the select board signed a consent agreement with the owner of the Regan property at 33 LaTour Street to address multiple code violations that occurred there during building. The agreement places limits on the uses of the structure.

Town Manger Shawn Blodgett reported that the town staff had spent considerable time recently in efforts to meet Freedom of Access Act requests form a law firm hired by interested parties. The information requested pertains to the “new fire station” and goes back to January 2020. “We have completely complied with the FOAA request and provided hundreds of pages of documents.” He also said that all of the information supplied had been presented at various public forums over the last 30 months.

Blodgett also reported on state law LD290 which was passed to stabilize property taxes for eligible senior citizens, according to Blodgett, but it does add an administrative burden to the town, he said. The town must determine who is eligible and charge property taxes accordingly each year, he explained.

Residents can check on their eligibility for the program at the Maine Revenue Services website. In brief, permanent Maine residents who are 65 years or older and qualify for the homestead exemption are eligible for the program, he said.

The town manager explained the state of the Perkins-Pleasant construction project. He reported that the project is going smoothly and quickly even thought the traffic disruptions have been very inconvenient for some.

The board also approved the appointments of municipal officers for another year, including the fire chief, animal control officer, library director and others. In a separate action, the board made their annual approval of members of several boards and committees as well.

Blodgett also reported on the discovery of the original deed to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation Meeting house on Court Street. Local resident Brooke Tenney found the deed, which dates from 1814 and says that in the event the building ceases to be a church, it reverts back to ownership by John Perkins or his heirs. At town meeting, voters decided that if the building ceases to be church, then it reverts back to the town. A legal opinion will be sought to see where the matter stands, Blodgett reported.

Last year, town voters approved something called the Volunteer Firefighters Injured Personnel Reserve Fund, Blodgett reported. The fund currently has a balance of $20,000 and can reach a maximum of $25,000. A policy recommendation would have the fund pay up to $1,200 per month for four months in a single year. The select board approved the policy to use the fund in this way. It is intended to supplement the municipal Workers’ Compensation in the event a volunteer with Fire Rescue gets injured, Blodgett explained. Only those injured and eligible for a workers’ compensation claim would be eligible for payment by this fund, Blodgett said.

In other news, the town of Castine is getting a new vendor to handle the town’s recycling efforts, according to Town Manager Sean Blodgett. Currently, the waste in the the recycling stream goes to Penobscot Energy Recovery Corporation in Orrington where it is burned to provide energy, though some may still go to landfills.

Pine Tree Waste is set to take over and restart true recycling in town, Blodgett said, though at a cost above what the town currently pays. But, recycling options will expand, he said.

The town and other municipalities have been hamstrung in their efforts to have a true and efficient recycling program ever since the Fiberight organization which briefly operated a facility Hampden before going bankrupt in 2020. A final dispensation of the municipal relationships with Fiberight’s Hampden facility is still to be decided by something called the MRC, or municipal review committee.

Until then, the town has been handling recycling by sending the waste to PERC or to landfills. Pine Tree Waste will have different rules governing what can be recycled, so residents need to be prepared for changes, Blodgett said.

The exact procedures for what will be accepted in recycling and how it will be accepted will be forthcoming, the Town Manager explained.

“There are going to be some differences to how we’ve done it in the past,” Blodgett said. The changes may “force the town to be much more strict” in determining what is acceptable for recycling, he added.