The Saco City Council has approved spending plans for the fiscal year that begins July 1; voters cast ballots on the school portion on June 8. Tammy Wells Photo

SACO — The mil rate in Saco— the amount taxpayers pay per $1,000 worth of property value — is headed downward following passage of  municipal and city budgets by the City Council on May 10, while property assessments may see an uptick.

The mil or tax rate, combined with assessed value, is used to set property taxes for owners of land and buildings, which is used to fund city government and school expenses, as well as pay Saco’s portion of the York County tax bill.

“It is important to note that this  number is adjusting down due to revised assessments going up, to move us closer to market value,” said City Administrator Bryan Kaenrath said of the mil rate projection.

The mil is currently $19.67 per $1,000 of assessment. The projected rate is around $18.78, or 89 cents less.

While the council has final say on the city government budget, voters have the last word on the school budget. Voters will cast a validation vote on the school budget June 8.

The municipal budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is about $33.2 million, up from $32.4 million in the current year. Revenues are projected to be down about $1.7 million and the city is using about $1 million from the fund balance, up from $400,000 used in the current year, to help offset the tax impact. In all, about $21.9 million of the municipal total is to be raised through taxation, about $1.9 million more than budgeted for the current year.

The school budget is about $45.5 million, up by about $3 million from the current year. About $28.3 million is to be raised through taxation, up by $602,000 from the current year.

York County tax is estimated at about $1.2 million, about $37,000 less than the current year.

Saco Assessor Nicholas Desjardins said the adjustment currently being tallied is not a full-blown revaluation, but an attempt to bring assessments a bit closer to market value.

“Assessors focus on equalizing values so the tax burden is distributed fairly,” said Desjardins in a telephone interview May 12. “Assessors may equalize values or bring them to a higher or lower level, depending on what markets are doing. In this case, (we’re) bringing ratios up closer to market and equalizing values and preparing for a revaluation for next year. It doesn’t mean every property needs to be adjusted.”

He said the adjustments that are being made are because of  “tremendous appreciation” in the market.

Desjardins said the Assessing Department is in the process of looking at data and would know more specifics in the next month.

He said the full revaluation being planned for next year will be the first since 2006.

Interim Superintendent Jeremy Ray told the City Council of adjustments to the school budget approved by the School Board the previous week.

“We made some reorganizational changes, looked at unfilled positions, contracted services, retirements, eliminated one of our director positions, special education reductions and other programming to help support some of our needs and to bring equitable programming to our elementary schools,” said Ray, reducing the original proposed budget by $534,000. He said at the same time, about $498,000 was added to capital improvements to buildings, “so basically, there was a trade in taking an amount of funds in one column and spending them for capital improvements in another. ”

Saco typically underfunds the facilities budget and the swap means some building issues can be addressed, Ray said.

The City Council’s vote to approve the school budget was unanimous. Its passage is pending approval by voters.

Nearly two dozen amendments were made to the municipal budget; among them was a vote to convert a seasonal Parks and Recreation Department position to full-time and a part-time Animal Control position a full- time position. The council agreed to fund a full-time harbormaster, currently a stipend position, with money from a Camp Ellis fund and from one of the city’s Tax Increment Financing districts. The council also agreed to purchase a hoist at the Camp Ellis pier, and use $150,000 in TIF money for improvements to Route 112, among other amendments. The vote on the municipal budget was unanimous.

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