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Verso's Appeal of Jay's 2013 Tax Assessment to be Heard by State

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According to a report this past week by The Sun Journal, Lewiston, Me., USA, a state board in May will hear Verso Androscoggin's appeal of the Jay Board of Assessors' decision last year on a tax abatement for tax year 2013.

In January, Verso sold one of its subsidiaries, Verso Androscoggin Power, which has four hydropower generation facilities in Jay, Livermore, and Livermore Falls, to Eagle Creek Renewable Energy of New Jersey for $62 million. Verso and 26 subsidiaries, including Verso Androscoggin LLC, also voluntarily filed petitions on January 26 with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of Delaware to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The company said that restructuring debt was necessary to strengthen the company's balance sheet and to position Verso for long-term success. Verso Androscoggin owns a paper mill and related industrial facilities on about 580 acres at 300 Riley Road in Jay, including all real and personal property at that site.

The company claims Jay substantially overvalued the property for tax year 2013 and it should have been valued at $460 million, before exemptions were factored in. The town had valued the property at $988 million prior to exemptions for 2013.

Following Verso Androscoggin's application for a tax abatement two years ago, Jay had a revaluation done on the property and came up with a valuation of $717 million before tax exemptions were applied. Verso had an appraisal done prior to filing the abatement request.

On Jan. 6, 2015, the Jay Board of Assessors reduced the valuation of the mill and associated property by $223.5 million from $815.4 million, which factored in exemptions, to $591.9 million, also considering exemptions, for tax year 2013.

The board granted a tax abatement of $829,258.

Verso appealed the decision to the Jay Board of Assessment Review, which upheld the Board of Assessors' decision in April 2015. The review board claimed Verso did not provide sufficient evidence for the board to revise the assessed value of the mill property.

The company had paid $9 million in taxes after exemptions for 2013, and after the abatement, the taxes were $8.18 million. The company appealed to the state. The Maine Board of Property Tax Review is scheduled to hear the appeal on May 9. In its appeal, Verso Androscoggin claims that the Board of Assessors' assessments and decision on the property are manifestly wrong, result in unjust discrimination, and unequal apportionment of the tax burden in violation of the Maine Constitution.

In calculating the refund in the tax abatement, Verso claims the decision used a higher rate of taxation, $17.51 per $1,000 of valuation, than the $14 per $1,000 of value the rest of the taxpayers paid for tax year 2013, according to the company's appeal.

Verso requests that the Board of Property Tax Review find Jay's decision manifestly wrong and find the just value of property for April 1, 2013, property tax year was equal to $460 million before exemptions. It also wants the board to grant Verso an abatement in accordance with the correct value of the taxable property and the tax rate in effect for the April 1, 2013, property tax year of $14, together with interest at the statutory rate and any other relief the board deems just and proper.

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