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School district announces tax assessment error

Aug 04, 2020

MSAD 28/FiveTown CSD School Superintendent Maria Libby announced today that the allocations for Rockport’s and Camden’s shares of the 2020-2021 MSAD 28 budget will be different than those forecast in this spring’s budget presentations. A shift of $422,784.40 will increase Camden’s share and lower Rockport’s share. Superintendent Libby also shared that prior years’ allocations were calculated incorrectly as well. She credited a new district business office team for discovering the cost-sharing error.

Following the July 14 local elections and voter approval of the MSAD 28 2020-2021 school budget, the district business office began preparing tax assessment documents for the two towns as it does annually. In doing so, they double-checked initial calculations and realized the numbers slightly differed. Digging deeper, the team sought to gain a thorough understanding of the historical formulas governing the allocations. Research and legal counsel revealed the complex formulas for determining the allocation, formulas which differ depending on the type of district organization, allocation agreements between towns, changes in state law and Department of Education policies over the years, and any special legislation or votes.

The research showed that in 2009, when MSAD 28 became RSU 28 due to the Consolidation Law, the district received a new Certificate of Organization from the state. That certificate states that the district is required to allocate the “local additional” portion of tax assessment based on property valuations. This was never done. Instead, since that time, the district has used student counts for the “required local” portion of the total tax assessments and for the “additional local” portion. Because of not using valuation for the additional local portion of the calculations, the district has determined that Rockport has paid more than its share in at least the past nine years. Due to changing state funding formulas, lack of historical data and natural workplace turnover, it has not been possible to determine how far back in time an incorrect formula was used.

Superintendent Libby noted that the district delayed the towns’ 2020-21 tax assessment warrants to be certain those would be done correctly. As a result of the proper calculation of this year’s apportionments, Camden will see an increased tax impact of 4.27% over last year’s school budget and Rockport will see a decrease of 5.64%. This translates to $26.44/$100,000 property value in Camden and a decrease of $43.06/$100,000 property value in Rockport. This will be verified by an independent expert in school finance.

The Superintendent has met with the Camden and Rockport town managers who are aware of the situation, as are the respective Select Boards and School Board. The three administrators are in discussions about the situation, are continuing to investigate it further and are working on possible solutions. More information will be forthcoming.

The corrected information has been posted on the district’s website.

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