BIDDEFORD – City officials are currently negotiating with the University of New England to reinstate a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement after a three-year lapse.

The university, with land and buildings assessed by the city to be worth $69.4 million, is tax-exempt because of its nonprofit status.

But the university signed an agreement with the city in 2003, agreeing to pay $50,000 annually for city services. That agreement expired in June 2008.

“Since that time, UNE and the city have entered into negotiations that have continued and lapsed two or three times for various reasons,” Bill Bola, UNE vice president for campus services, said Friday.

Since the agreement expired, the university has not made a payment to the city for two years, he said.

With recent campus expansions, including a residence hall and turf field on Route 9, the university paid an impact fee in lieu of the $50,000. This fee totaled $61,562, but will be paid out to the city over five years.

Jim Emerson, city councilor for Ward 1, raised the issue regarding the lapse in payments during budget discussions earlier this year.

“I am not suggesting that the city should seek to gouge UNE, but at a minimum, it should be receiving the $50,000 per year that was originally agreed to when UNE was much smaller physically and humanly in addition to a value for any expansion since then,” Emerson wrote in an email to his constituents.

The most recent version of the city’s upcoming budget includes $100,000 in revenue from the university to make up for payments owed, said Curt Koehler, the city’s finance director. He said the revenue will help reduce the tax impact, as well as save a few jobs.

The budget currently calls for the elimination of 5½ positions from municipal staff. City officials at one point were considering cutting nine more positions.

“We are going to reconcile and become current with the city,” and then negotiate another agreement, Bola said.

Terms of the agreement or an annual amount has not been determined at this point, he said.

Part of the negotiation involves an evaluation of the university’s impact, both negative and positive, on the city.

Bola said how that evaluation will be conducted is also being explored. He said the university has been working cooperatively with the city to finalize these negotiations.

“The city, I believe, realizes that UNE is an asset,” Bola said. “And UNE recognizes the city of Biddeford is a true and valued supporter and partner for the University of New England.”

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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