The Newcastle Board of Selectmen set the town’s 2016 mil rate at $18.05 during its Monday, July 10 meeting. The rate is the same as the previous year’s rate.
The mil rate determines the property tax per $1,000 of assessed value. A Newcastle property owner with a home and land valued at $100,000, for example, would receive a $1,805 property tax bill.
The town will use $40,000 from surplus to maintain a flat tax rate.
This decision came after discussion with Assessors’ Agent Jim Murphy, who said the mil rate is likely to increase next year due to a 5 percent increase in the homestead exemption, unless the board manages to curb expenses.
The selectmen discussed increasing the mil rate slightly this year to avoid a sharp increase next year.
“There’s a thought process in there, and that is if you think it’s going to go up whatever next year, do we want to do a part of that this year and a part of that next year, or do we want to soldier a bigger increase next year?” said Murphy.
“With all philosophies being roughly equal, this is probably the best year to do this,” said Selectman Ben Frey about leaving the mil rate the same. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we can probably guess that we’ll have a bit of a bump next year.”
The motion to keep the mil rate at $18.05 passed 5-0.
The selectmen re-elected Chair Brian Foote and Vice Chair Carolyn Hatch. They also re-elected Chair Ben Frey and Vice Chair Joel Lind for the board of assessors.
Tax bill outsourcing
The selectmen passed a motion to outsource the tax bill to a company called Hygrade, which would print and mail the tax bills, instead of using town staff.
New Town Administrator Jon Duke said folding and mailing the tax bill each year is very labor-intensive.
“In my experience in Hope, and we had fewer parcels so it was even less time, but it still took a couple days just folding,” said Duke.
Duke said the cost of paper, stamps, and envelopes is roughly equal to the cost of Hygrade, without the labor.
Street vendor application fee
The street vendor application fee was set at $50 with a 4-1 vote. Selectman Carolyn Hatch cast the opposing vote.
Frey said he felt the application needs to be simplified, as current requirements asking for dimensions, a site review, photographs, and sketches feel excessive.
“The whole purpose of doing this (application) is to not put applicants through a planning board process,” Frey said.
Selectman Joel Lind said he thinks some description is necessary to understand the size and location of vendors.
The discussion surrounding the application fee was divided, as Foote said he thinks it should be between $50 and $100.
Hatch moved to set the fee at $100 to dissaude less serious applicants. Selectman Chris Doherty seconded her motion.
Frey disagreed, saying for the first year $100 is too steep and they could re-evaluate it next year.
“That’s how we crafted the ordinance and that’s how we should craft the fee,” said Frey.
Lind agreed with Frey.
“It’s less about the money and more about people using the ordinance and using the CEO and following the rules … I want to see people using this. That’s my number one priority,” Lind said.