New Gloucester’s taxes well below average

|Debra Smith, NGX|

We all cherish and want to preserve the rural character of New Gloucester, but it’s no remote little one-horse town. We are situated between the state’s two largest cities, and are in Maine’s top 15% of communities in terms of population.

While no one wants their tax bill to increase, the reality is that our property taxes have been historically lower than other communities in our area, and state-wide. “We’ve gotten by on the cheap for a long time,” one town leader noted in a personal conversation. It’s clear from current budget challenges that New Gloucester has underfunded a number of areas for many years, such as paving and equipment replacement, and now there are proposed staffing cuts to the library, planning, public works and the elimination of the parks & recreation director to fill the gap.

Many people have written letters and showed up at meetings and hearings to express their views, just about all opposed to staffing cuts. The voices of the community should be heeded: these ARE essential to New Gloucester. Bravo to the new town manager who has listened and has tried to find savings to cover at least some of these cuts. But in the larger picture, we must consider that the taxes need to adequately cover what the community needs and values.

How does New Gloucester compare? Maine Revenue Services calculates an Equalized Full Value Tax Rate in order to provide an apples-to-apples comparison across the state. This makes adjustments for Homestead taxes, business equipment taxes (BETE) and TIFs (Tax Increment Finance districts, such as Pineland). The most recent figures are for 2016.

The 2016 average for Androscoggin County was $20.12; for Cumberland County, $15.40. The state-wide weighted average rate was $15.06. New Gloucester’s rate was well below all at $13.46. See the full historical table.

Here are the equalized 2016 Full Value Tax Rates for New Gloucester and surrounding communities, along with their official mill rates (what we see on our tax bill.)

Municipality Full Value Rate
Mill Rate (2016)
Auburn 22.41 22.35
Durham 16.49 18.80
Gray 14.58 18.05
New Gloucester 13.46 14.70
North Yarmouth 15.74 17.62
Poland 14.44 14.39
Pownal 15.99 16.50

This is a tough year all around, but it’s not the end of the world. The select board has the legal ability to provide relief to those experiencing hardship. We must look forward, toward a shared vision of a vibrant community that capitalizes on our many assets, uses a smart approach to economic and community development, and builds toward a budget that adequately funds what we need and value.