Towns slightly ahead on tax collection

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND  Despite predictions that came shortly after the pandemic began in March of people possibly having trouble paying property taxes in the fall, most towns here are in line with, or slightly ahead of, last year’s collection. 

“We had a lot of people that just paid their full amount,” Southwest Harbor Town Clerk Marilyn Lowell told selectmen at an October meeting. “It was surprising how many people just paid their tax bills in full with what’s going on.”  

While the town’s tax collection is $96,492 ahead of last year’s at the same time in October, the commitment is up as well. Taking the percentage of collection into account, the town is about 0.8 of a percent behind where it was last year.  

There is a tax club offered by the town in which residents can spread out their payments throughout the year, reducing the burden of a one-time payment. According to Lowell, participation in that club remained relatively steady at around 83 property owners.  

At the same time, Bar Harbor is ahead in its collections the same percentage Southwest Harbor is behind.  

“As of Sept. 30, our collection is up about 1 percent over last year,” said Sarah Gilbert, the town’s tax collector. “Our collection rate was 0.8 percent better than last year. We haven’t seen payments in full more than normal.” 

In Tremont, Town Manager Chris Saunders reported to the Board of Selectmen that tax collection is ahead of the pace of the past three years. This year, the town’s collection is at 87.53 percent of the town’s total commitment. Taxes were due on Sept. 21, and the numbers Saunders shared reflect collections through the end of September. Last year, the town had collected 84 percent of the total tax commitment for the fiscal year by that same time.  

Saunders also reported that the motor vehicle excise tax was just over $41,000 in September, which was ahead of pace for all recent years. A lot of times people assume that number is high because people are buying more cars, Saunders explained to the Islander, but it could also mean more people are registering their vehicles in Tremont. 

In Mount Desert, collection is relatively flat compared to last year. Because of a later-than-normal annual Town Meeting this year, the town’s tax commitment date was pushed out two months from July 1 to Sept. 1.  

“A lot of our people prepaid. With that, we’re showing just a 1 percent increase in our collection,” said Lisa Young, the town’s tax collector. “We also had a 1 percent increase in our commitment as well.” 

Taxes were due on Oct. 1 in Trenton and are a one-time payment for the year.  

“We have a few that are always a little bit ahead, that’s standard,” said Carroll Walsh, who is the town’s tax collector. “We’ve noticed this year the paid-in-fulls are just a tad behind what they normally are by about $150,000. It’s not enough to make anybody panic.” 

Trenton residents have seen significant increases in their tax bills in the last couple of years because of increases in the school budget due to state requirements for students with special needs in the town.  

“We make a point of working with anyone who needs to make monthly payments,” said Walsh about the approximately 1,400 property owners. “I have several of those.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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