Around the Region

Brownville mil rate set at $18.90

By Stuart Hedstrom 
Staff Writer
    BROWNVILLE — During the first meeting of the 2014-15 fiscal year on July 16, the board of selectmen set a 2015 tax rate of $18.90 for every $1,000 in assessed property. This figure represents an increase of 60 cents from the previous mil rate of $18.30.
    “There have been some reductions and some additions but for the most part there wasn’t a lot of new buildings,” Town Manager Matthew Pineo said, adding the real estate value for Brownville is nearly $55 million. He said the municipal appropriations total close to $950,000 — before revenue funds are factored in —  while the town’s share of the SAD 41 school budget is $555,720 and portion of the Piscataquis County budget is approximately $74,000.
    Over $527,000 from various revenue sources results in a net amount of nearly $1,052,000 to be raised. Pineo said about 53 percent of this is for the school, 40 percent for the town and the remaining 7 percent is for the county.

    Municipal revenue sharing through the state has decreased by about $60,000 from the year before. “I think the public should know why taxes are going up,” Select Chair Walter Cook said, saying this is not the result of increased spending by the town.
    “The general public should know about $80,000 was trimmed to make this happen, even though this went up,” Pineo said. He said if the budget was not reduced by the $80,000, the mil rate may have been $.6 to $.8 mils higher.
    The idea of including a note to this effect with tax bills, which were set to be mailed on either July 17 or July 18, was mentioned. “I would be more than happy to sit down with any resident on this,” Pineo said about the various figures in the 2014-15 budget and mil rate.
    In other business, the selectmen met with several representatives from the Brownville Free Public Library. “The Brownville Free Public Library would like to come under the auspices of the town,” said library board of directors Vice President Vickie Gray.
    If the Brownville Free Public Library were to fall under the jurisdiction of the town, the organization would be tax exempt and would be able to apply for a number of grant opportunities. Becoming a tax-exempt organization on its own would involve legal costs the library does not have the money for and staying at its current status could force the library to close its doors.
    “We are working on short-term and long-term goals,” Gray said, which include the purchase of portable book shelves, painting and refurbishing the library interior, starting new programs such as computer familiarization for seniors, purchasing new computers and working with the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council on grant applications.
    Another reason for having the Brownville Free Public Library fall under the jurisdiction of the town would be for the library director to be paid on the town payroll and therefore have FICA and taxes taken out and receive an annual W-2 form to meet IRS requirements. The librarian would also be covered by worker’s compensation.
    Pineo said the town contributes $3,500 toward the library, as this amount is included in the municipal budget, and said the library staff and directors do a very good job with the funds they have to use. He said a decision to accept the library under the town’s umbrella would be up to the board, and they are scheduled to discuss this idea more at the meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 6 at 6:30 p.m.
    Another topic of conversation for Aug. 6 will be the long-term plans for the fire department. Pineo said both stations need insulation work, but a more cost-effective plan for the future could be one new building — funded at least in part by grant funds — or even creating a regional fire department with Milo to help alleviate the issue of a shortage of firefighters that volunteer departments across the state are facing.
    Pineo, Fire Chief David Preble and Public Works Operations Director Kevin Black will meet before Aug. 6 to come up with some preliminary ideas for the selectmen. A new fire station could be located by the public works garage on land already owned by the town.
    Over the last month Pineo said he has been working on the issue of general assistance and illegal immigrants after an order to stop such practices came from Gov. Paul LePage and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Pineo said Brownville has not had such recipients seeking general assistance, but mentioned there are migrant farm workers in areas not too far from the town.
    “We don’t have any cases like that but what has come out of this is I have to prove citizenship,” he said. “We have to do a background check ourselves.”
    Pineo said towns are not reimbursed for these expenses. He said if general assistance is knowingly granted to a recipient who is not legally permitted to be in the U.S. then a Maine town could lose reimbursement funds and if help is not offered in certain cases the municipality could be subject to a discrimination-based lawsuit.
    The Maine Municipal Association has filed an injunction against DHHS over the general assistance order.
    2014 marks the bicentennial of the community of the Sangerville, and in recognition of the milestone the community’s selectman Thomas Carone crafted individual handmade gavels out of recycled materials for both Brownville and the Piscataquis County Commissioners.
    “Other than the county, the town of Brownville has one of these on the 200th anniversary,” Pineo said, saying he would be sending a thank you letter to Carone. Carone’s gavel will be used at various select and town meetings going forward.

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