Vassalboro TIF program tops selectmen’s agenda

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program was the selectmen’s main topic at their June 11 meeting, held in-person in the town office meeting room with appropriate social distancing and very few masks.

Selectmen received recommendations for interpreting, using or considering updates to Vassalboro’s current TIF program, and, after a public hearing, approved TIF funds for the Vassalboro Sanitary District (VSD).

A TIF is a state-approved plan that lets a municipality exclude part of its tax base from its state valuation, thus increasing state aid in some areas, provided it uses the tax money from the excluded portion for economic development as outlined in a local plan. Vassalboro voters put tax revenue from the Summit natural gas pipeline into a TIF. Selectmen have used the money to help the VSD connect to Winslow’s sewer system and to support the Alewife Restoration Project (ARI).

Earlier this year selectmen asked Garvan Donegan, of the Central Maine Growth Council, to review Vassalboro’s TIF document to make sure funds were being used properly and to consider other possible uses, either as the document stands or if they were to propose amendments.

Donovan said current uses are appropriate. He added that using TIF funds on the Gray Road culvert replacement project would be legal, because a better culvert is part of the fish habitat improvement that is ARI’s goal.

Both he and, Town Manager Mary Sabins said, VSD’s legal advisor said the VSD cannot use TIF money to pay individual homeowners’ costs for connecting to the expanded public sewer system.

VSD spokesman Ray Breton said the current plan is to use TIF money to make loan payments. The expansion project has been expensive, he said, and the VSD has had to raise user fees significantly.

After the public hearing and a wide-ranging discussion, selectmen approved an immediate $72, 265 grant to the VSD to cover a July 1 debt payment and promised to appropriate the rest of the $166,000 requested as 2020 taxes from Summit come in.

At their April 2 meeting, after a Feb. 11 public hearing, they appropriated $83,000 to ARI and promised another $60,000 in August or September.

In other business June 11, selectmen:

  • Unanimously awarded 2020 paving work to Pike Industries, as recommended by Road Commissioner Eugene Field.
  • Voted unanimously to sell the 2007 Chevrolet Impala police cruiser by advertising for bids.
  • Approved closing the town office all day Tuesday, July 14, because office staff will be Vassalboro Community School, where the day’s voting will be held. Voters will act on state ballot questions and two local issues, endorsing or rejecting the 2020-21 school budget approved at the June 22 town meeting and electing municipal officers.
  • Scheduled the next three selectmen’s meeting for Thursday evening, June 25; Thursday evening, July 23; and Thursday evening, Aug. 20.

Selectman John Melrose reported on continuing grounds work at the former East Vassalboro school and adjoining park, and plans for improved access to the town forest trail west of East Vassalboro.


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