Yesterday (June 14), the Board of Selectmen voted to reduce the real estate and personal property tax rate for the 2021-22 fiscal year. The rate will go down from 42.65 to 39 mills; motor vehicle taxes will stay at 38 mills. (A mill is one dollar for every thousand dollars in assessed value.) The average home in Scotland is assessed at $149,000; its owners currently pay $6354.85. Under the new rate, they will pay $5,811, a differential of $543. Bills that go out at the beginning of July will reflect this reduction.
The BOS decision was made because of the unique circumstances of these unanticipated revenues. After the 21-22 budget was drafted, the town learned that it would receive two large infusions of cash: $80,000 from the Town of Putnam and $165,000 from Regional School District 11, which operates Parish Hill High School. The Putnam payment was the return of our 2016 investment in the Quinebaug Regional Tech Park, and the Region 11 payment was our share of its surplus from the 2019-20 school year. In addition, the town did not need to use $104,000 from its 2020-21 budget, largely because the Scotland Elementary School also ran a surplus.
The BOS took note of the fact that most of the resulting $349,000 returned to the General Fund had been raised from taxes already paid. It would have increased our undesignated fund balance to more than $1 million, far more than the $670,000 we budgeted for. Passing these refunds along to the people who paid the money out for them in the first place seemed like the fair thing to do, and did not compromise our immediate financial picture.
It’s important to understand that the reduction in tax rates may be temporary, as these rebates are the result of unusual conditions, many related to covid. We will continue to work to keep our general government costs down, as our colleagues on the boards of education have done for many years. The BOS will revisit the issue next spring, as it does every year. In the meantime, we hope that the reduction for this year will provide some welcome relief in what has been a very difficult time for everyone.