September 2, 2022

Software error results in Windham Town Council adjusting mill rate

By Ed Pierce

A software error discovered in late August has resulted in the Windham Town Council having to recalculate its mill rate for property taxes for the coming year. During a meeting on Aug. 16, councilors voted to set the mill rate at 11.19 to meet an overlay of $96,789, but discovery of a software accounting error on Aug. 22 by the town manager’s office brought councilors back for a special meeting on Aug. 24 to adjust the mil rate.

The new adjusted rate of 11.61 was approved by councilors and is expected to generate enough to meet the overlay, said Windham Town manager Barry A. Tibbetts.

“The error was discovered Aug. 22 and it was a software error in which exemptions were not applied,” Tibbetts told the council during the special meeting. “We reran the numbers and found that we needed a mil rate of 11.61 to meet the overlay of $96,789 and fulfill the budget voters approved at the town meeting in June for the coming year.” 

The 2022-2023 town budget of about $38 million funded the expense of adding six fire-EMS personnel, fixed cost increases from rising electric and fuel expenses, medical and dental contractual obligations, bonding, and capital equipment leases. The budget also funded other initiatives in Windham such as intersection engineering for River Road/Route 202; preliminary development of a Northwest Fire Station; Firewall and Switch Replacement for municipal buildings; creating a Public Safety Memorial at Windham’s Public Safety Building; records conservation; Collinwood Circle and Running Brook Development; purchase of a recreation storage container; and providing reserves for capital projects and bonding.

Councilor Mark Morrison asked if this was an ongoing accounting problem and Tibbetts said the software glitch has been resolved and this should not happen again in the future.

“It definitely won’t happen again,” Tibbetts said.

Property taxes collected by the town are based upon the mil rate that the town council sets each year. The mill levy is the tax rate that is applied to the assessed value of a property. One mill is one dollar per $1,000 dollars of assessed value. That consists of a local tax portion which is used to fund area services and a statewide portion which is used to fund public schools.

During the Aug. 16 meeting, Windham town councilors also were briefed about the town’s successful response to the Senior Tax Assistance Program again this year.

Tibbetts said 244 seniors applied for the program for the 2021/2022 tax year, up from 200 seniors who applied for the 2020/2021 tax year.

According to Tibbetts, the average income of qualifying recipients is $35,193 and the average tax paid by qualifying recipients is $3,004.

Under the Senior Tax Assistance Program this year, Tibbetts said 128 senior residents qualified for the full benefit of $700, while 99 senior residents qualified for a partial benefit ranging from $39 to $695. About 17 or 19 applicants were not eligible for assistance under the program rules because their household income exceeded the established limit (50 percent of the current HUD MFI for the Portland metropolitan area or $56,350. Another eight applicants did not pay property taxes that met the program requirements (Property Taxes Paid – 4 percent of household income).

“Per our ordinance, Chapter 209, Article I - Property Tax Assistance, payments to all qualifying applicants are limited to the amount available in the fund and any surplus monies available after all payments shall be carried forward within the fund to the next fiscal year,” Tibbetts said. “We carried forward $49,541 and budgeted $100,000 for this fiscal year. The council increased the maximum benefit, or the refund amount was increased to $700. This year, the total program calculated benefit was $133,823, which is within the fund amount of $149,541.”

Tibbetts said the Senior Tax Assistance Program differs from a state senior tax assistance program but has been helpful in saving money for Windham seniors.

“This has been a great program for our seniors, and you can see from the memo that it has steadily increased each year.”

Councilor William Reiner said he supports the program and is glad to see the town promoting the initiative in the community through advertising it in the media and online.

“I’m glad this was presented out there, and people took advantage of it,” Reiner said. <

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