Warren increases tax rate
Warren — The Warren Board of Selectmen approved a recommended tax rate of $15.90 as made by the town’s assessing agent Jim Murphy.
The rate passed at the Aug. 7 board meeting is an increase of $1.20 per $1,000 of value and represents an increase of $154 to the average Warren property owner whose property is valued at $128,500.
"The increase has not come without any discussion and debate however," said Interim Town Manager Glenn Aho in a press release.
Aho stated that for months the budget committee and board of selectmen sharpened their pencils until the Warren municipal budget of $2.2 million increased by only $2,513.
Factored into the Warren tax rate are also increases from Knox County of more than $11,000, an increase in the Regional School Unit 40 budget of more than $150,000, and a loss of state revenues of approximately $100,000.
The budget committee and board of selectmen also wrestled with the fact the town must borrow funds nine months out of the year to fund services.
“The amount of our borrowing has only increased over the last 10 years and reducing our debt was a major priority," said Douglas Pope, board chairman.
Pope said the selectmen and the budget committee agreed that a multi-year plan for reducing debt was necessary. The town will work on a fund balance policy, consider generating a stabilization account, and concentrate upon using less borrowed funds to fund services.
"Together, these efforts will put the town on a better footing going forward," Pope said.
The town annually pays upwards of $17,000 in interest payments and that is while interest rates are set around 2 percent. When rates increase, so too will that budget line. Pope commended the work of the budget committee, staff, and the selectmen for the hard choices needed to be made.
“No one wants to see the tax rate increase, but also no one wanted to see the town’s reliance on debt spending increase either,” said Pope.
Tax bills will soon be released and have a due date of Nov. 15. To help the town's cash flow, a warrant article will appear on the next town meeting authorizing the board to collect taxes twice a year, instead of just once.