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From:  Citizens Tax Group Of Fort Fairfield

Fort Fairfield Journal, January 27, 2021


   The Property Tax bill due date of February 1st is fast approaching for Fort Fairfield property owners who are seeing an enormous increase over last year.  Although some bills have decreased, many more have increased.  The calculated average tax bill change from 2019 to 2020 is a 28.2% increase.  Many of those whose bills went down were for mobile homes that depreciate over time.  For only those with a higher bill, the average increase in taxes is 46.3%.  These results were calculated using public data available at the town office. Tax bills under $100 and those without a clear matchup for 2019 and 2020 have been excluded.

   This dramatic increase is partly due to the loss of businesses in Fort Fairfield, most recently ReEnergy biomass plant.  It is also due to the recent town revaluation that is required on a regular basis in order for valuations to be equitable from one property to another within the community. values increase as out-of-state buyers pay high prices for Fort Fairfield properties, driving up the tax bills for residents who have lived here for generations.  Local people with low wages can’t keep up.

   Fort Fairfield is a poor community with few employment opportunities.  It has one of the oldest populations in the nation, with 21.5% of residents being over 65, many of whom live on fixed incomes.  Businesses have lost customers and incomes. Our farmers have suffered the worst drought in 100 years.  This tax increase comes in the middle of the worst global pandemic of our lifetime.  We are in a health crisis and an economic crisis. Families are struggling to put food on the table.  They have lost their jobs or have reduced hours.

   The tax bills are determined by the mil rate.  That value is chosen by the Council to raise enough money to cover the budget.  One would assume that the Council would have chosen a mil rate that, when combined with the new assessments, would yield tax bills similar to 2019, plus perhaps a small increase to account for inflation.  This increase in bills of an average of 28% over last year, however, seems outrageous, especially when you consider that the tax rate was already high.  According to, the median property tax in Maine in 2020 is $1,936 per year (or 1.09%) for a home worth the median value of $177,500.00.  In Fort Fairfield the tax for that home is $3,638, (or 2.05%). 

   The revenue losses from the pandemic and loss of the energy plant were clearly known and anticipated throughout 2020 as the budget was prepared and passed. would expect that there would have been an urgent need to trim the town budget back to a level that the community could afford, especially in the time of a pandemic, when purse strings are being tightened across the country.   Instead the budget appears to show that total expenditures for 2021 are up about 20%.  The bill is simply being passed on to the property owner.

   Other small communities in the State have faced similar crises.  Some have experienced so much turmoil as to actually fire their Manager and Council. Some have simply refused to pay the bill.  Others have taken constructive steps to give their citizens more voice over town expenses and on how much tax burden they are willing to bear.  Some have a budget committee of citizens that provides a direct voice from the taxpayer. These committees across the State, from Fort Kent to Berwick, are responsible for reviewing and approving any proposed increase in expenditures. In other communities there is a citizen vote on the budget, not just a vote by the council who is voting on a budget that they themselves have created.  After such a disruptive year, citizens need to gain more voice over taxation.  Taxpayers ready to work together to make that happen are encouraged to speak up and voice their support at