Farmington board appoints assessor, approves tax rate

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FARMINGTON – With the tax rate set, tax bills are expected to be sent out in the near future. During the meeting Tuesday night, the Farmington Select Board reviewed the tax rate and commitment with Dirigo Assessing, the company that was hired to perform specific assessing tasks in the absence of an in-house assessor.

Dirigo Assessing compiled the numbers, including the school and county taxes, and presented the board with different rate scenarios for the Downtown TIF and overlay. These variable items are set by the select board before the tax commitment can be made.

The board voted, four to one, to set the Downtown TIF at $150,000 and the overlay at $30,000 with the corresponding mil rate. This scenario was not on the list provided by Dirigo, so the correct mil rate will be calculated and then provided to the town office so that tax bills can be sent. It is expected that the mil rate will be slightly less than the 0.01993 estimated for the closest scenario presented, with the Downtown TIF at $150,000 and overlay of $41,916.85. The mil rate for 2022 was 0.01800, or $18 for each $1,000 in property values.

There were some questions about the appointment of the assessor and whether the select board could set the tax commitment in the absence of an assessor. In the past, the assessor has not been appointed at a town meeting vote, but by a vote of the select board. There was a note that previously, legal counsel advised the select board that they were not also the board of assessors.

Ultimately, the board voted to appoint Nichole Stenberg from Dirigo Assessing as the assessor, to be sworn in by the town clerk on Friday. Stenberg said she is already a sworn assessor, so she did not mind being sworn in for Farmington as well.

The correct mil rate will be provided to the town so that tax bills can be sent out as promptly as possible.

Update: Thursday afternoon, Farmington’s Administrative Assistant Leah Guisti communicated, per Interim Town Manager Steve Eldridge, that following the recalculation the mil rate is 19.91, or 0.01991. Justin Poirier of Dirigo Assessing will be finalizing all of the documents tomorrow (Friday.)

(Editor’s note: the correct mil rate was not available at the time of publication on Wednesday.)

In other business during the meeting on October 10, Police Chief Ken Charles introduced Officer Ariana Bacon to the select board. Charles noted that he met Bacon during her time in the Maine Criminal Justice Academy when he was on staff there and was impressed with her performance at the time, so he was excited to see her application come in for the position.

Bacon spoke briefly with the board. She comes from a family of first responders; her mother is a nurse, her father a medic, and her brother is a firefighter/medic. She was raised in Skowhegan and originally attended the MCJA for Lewiston Police Department, where she worked for a time. Bacon said that while she enjoyed her time in Lewiston, she is excited to start in Farmington.

This new hire fills the patrol division at the Farmington Police Department and leaves one vacancy: a detective. The qualifications for the detective position, including years of experience on the job, has made it challenging to fill.

The board reviewed several letters of interest and a formal application for the school board vacancy. Wayne Kinney submitted an application and there were three additional letters of interest, along with a phone call referenced.

Selectman Joshua Bell said that he would consider a letter of interest as an application.

Selectman Dennis O’Neil said that since Kinney indicated a willingness to serve out the remainder of the term and not necessarily to run in the spring election, and since Kinney had previous experience on the board, he would recommend appointing Kinney and writing to the other applicants to encourage them to run in the spring election.

The board voted, three to two, to appoint Wayne Kinney to the board.

This meeting was recorded by Mt. Blue TV and is available for viewing online at MtBlueTV.org

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