Seasons, the sprawling cafe and athletics bar on Bangor’s Principal Road, was at the time packed with patrons, especially on the times of concerts on the city’s waterfront and all through the significant university basketball event each February.
But with all those situations halted, and with its purchaser potential minimal mainly because of COVID-19 constraints, Seasons’ small business has taken a sizable hit because the pandemic arrived past March. Even relative achievements has its limitations: Consumers generally experience prolonged waits because of the lowered ability.
“You dislike anytime in a cafe to say no to someone,” Typical Supervisor John Hafford stated. “COVID’s manufactured us say no a large amount, sadly.”
Seasons is one particular of several Bangor-location hospitality businesses that has observed revenues decline because of COVID-19 as part of a phenomenon that could shake up Bangor’s tax foundation for a long time to come.
A year of slumping revenue at those people and other firms that pay out significant home tax payments will capture up with Bangor metropolis councilors as they craft a new town finances later this year. 1 possible result is that home owners could locate themselves shouldering a much larger share of the charge of metropolis companies.
Towns and towns throughout Maine that rely greatly on support-industry companies to fund their budgets could discover themselves in the similar scenario as Bangor this year, and perfectly into the foreseeable future, as they experience the uncertainty that goes with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly a calendar year because Maine’s initial coronavirus scenario, it’s nevertheless significantly from specified when existence could return to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy amid the sluggish pace of vaccinations, regular numbers of new infections and the threat of new, more contagious coronavirus strains. And some organizations that took a pandemic-linked hit may well hardly ever see a return to pre-pandemic volumes of business.
In Bangor, businesses have historically compensated a greater part of the city’s assets taxes, but that harmony could start out to shift just after nearly a yr of the pandemic has frustrated gross sales at specifically the organizations Bangor has extended relied on to support fund town services. Individuals incorporate vendors, eating places, lodges and Hollywood On line casino, which have been harm as the pandemic has hastened a long-operating shift to on the internet profits, curtailed journey and forced several to shut their doorways to prospects for weeks or months and reduce their potential.
Battling organizations will very likely see their assessed values fall, most likely translating into lower property tax charges. In the meantime, numerous homeowners can assume to see their home values rise — and residence tax expenses, as a consequence — in a very hot serious estate marketplace.
Businesses’ gross sales and their house values could bounce again subsequent the pandemic, but that is much from a assure for all of them, as the pandemic has changed consumers’ patterns.
“The Bangor Shopping mall and areas like that — they are fighting on the net sales,” reported Josephine LaPlante, an associate professor of coverage, preparing, and management at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. “It was a development that was in play which is been escalated” considering the fact that COVID-19 arrived.
A shifting tax base
The Bangor area’s eating places and motels have viewed substantial declines in organization since the get started of the pandemic, nevertheless the strike to the Portland spot has been greater.
Bangor-space lodging profits have been more than 60 p.c reduced from March to November 2020 than in the exact period of time a calendar year earlier, in accordance to knowledge from Maine Earnings Solutions. Restaurant product sales had been far more than a quarter decrease.
At Hollywood Casino, which didn’t reopen right until July following the March start of the pandemic, income for March by way of December past 12 months was 53 % lessen than it was during that identical time period in 2019.
The metropolis is anticipating that all those businesses’ money difficulties will translate into them shedding about 10 percent of their combination residence value when new residence assessments get effect afterwards this calendar year, Bangor Finance Director Debbie Laurie explained.
Nonetheless, Laurie claimed, escalating property values could offset that decline in property tax income from companies.
Out-of-state household consumers have been drawn to Maine throughout the pandemic, attracted by its rural, spread-out nature and comparatively reduced COVID-19 situation counts. The outcome was an 11 p.c increase in Penobscot County’s median home sale cost past year when compared with 2019, according to the Maine Affiliation of Realtors, with larger sale price ranges translating into extra beneficial attributes.
Other owners have made use of the pandemic to renovate their properties, incorporating taxable value to their houses, Laurie stated. The town issued 48 percent extra household building permits in 2020 than it did in 2019 — 40 permits, in comparison with 27 a calendar year previously, in accordance to Bangor’s code enforcement workplace.
Even so, shifting the tax stress from firms to residents delivers its individual set of challenges, especially through a coronavirus-fueled economic downturn.
“If you don’t have a occupation, raising the benefit of your dwelling, which raises your residence tax bill, isn’t automatically a great issue,” Laurie claimed.
Whether Bangor’s house tax base forever comes to rely extra seriously on property owners is unfamiliar, and mainly dependent on variables largely out of the city’s management, which include the rollout of vaccines and the trajectory of the countrywide overall economy.
“Are we likely to be in this cycle for 3 to 4 or five years?” Laurie stated. “What does the new usual seem like?”
Miguel’s Mexican Cafe on Hogan Highway wouldn’t have been equipped to stay open without a federal Paycheck Security Program mortgage of about $149,000 last Could that it made use of to make payroll, Proprietor Chris Jones explained.
“We were down over a fifty percent million dollars very last yr,” he claimed. “So with no that, I really don’t imagine we would have manufactured it.”
Jones and Hafford, the typical supervisor of Seasons, claimed a devaluation that interprets into lower property tax expenditures would assistance their firms. But this sort of a shift could not be the very best for the Bangor spot overall, Jones explained. Each had been skeptical that smaller sized residence tax expenses would materialize.
Lower residence taxes “may be a significant boon,” Hafford stated. “There’s a large amount of firms suitable now that are truly sort of having difficulties.”
Although assets taxes are the dominant source of earnings for Bangor, they’re not the only earnings source that is taken a hit considering the fact that the pandemic.
One illustration is the sum Bangor collects each calendar year from Hollywood On line casino, which pays 2 % of desk recreation income and 1 per cent of slot earnings right to the city. The city takes advantage of that income to shell out financial debt assistance on the town-owned Cross Insurance plan Center.
The casino collected about $20.5 million in income from March to December very last yr, a 53 per cent fall from the exact time period a yr previously. Apart from depressed profits most likely decreasing the home benefit of the casino — extensive just one of Bangor’s prime residence tax payers — it has by now translated specifically into hundreds of hundreds in dropped revenue for the city. Bangor collected $296,000 from casino revenues last year, down from $554,000 in 2019.
Desk video game action has turn into considerably far more confined considering the fact that the commencing of the pandemic: When website visitors could participate in at 18 tables in January 2020, they’ve only been in a position to perform at 6 for most of the pandemic.
The on line casino was also shut all through April, Could and June — lengthier than most other companies. It laid off a selection of staff in September, although it did not say how quite a few.
The town and casino are in standard call and would discuss any assets worth transform prior to it happens, Hollywood Casino Common Supervisor Austin Muchemore explained. He declined to say whether or not he expects a devaluation.
“Like anyone, we will be substantially happier when we are on the other facet of this and extra people can obtain safely and securely with much less constraints at the time all over again,” Muchemore claimed.
Budgeting amid uncertainty
Perform on the up coming city spending budget will start in earnest this spring before the finances usually takes impact July 1.
City Council Chair Dan Tremble reported he does not count on massive cuts since of lessen business enterprise residence values, agreeing that increasing house values could come “pretty close” to offsetting the drop on the company facet.
Prolonged-time period, he claimed, he’s optimistic about business enterprise house values bouncing back.
“Once companies rebound, [their values] would be readjusted,” Tremble mentioned.
But the hit to retail, lodging and enjoyment house values could not be the only one particular Bangor has to contend with down the line. The pandemic also may well drive organizations to scale again or abandon their investments in bodily workplace area, as staff have altered to operating from dwelling through the pandemic, said LaPlante, the USM professor.
That change would have substantial consequences on Bangor’s budgeting, as enterprises that scale back again their workplace space would be necessary to pay out considerably less in house taxes, or no residence taxes at all.
“You’re heading to see some folks go back again to workplaces, but they might not go back again 5 days a 7 days,” LaPlante stated. “And if persons do not return to them and you have a large amount of vacancies, you are going to see some actually severe impacts in excess of the next couple a long time.”
Tremble explained he had not witnessed that phenomenon in Bangor nonetheless, but reported extended-term alterations to office area occupancy had been probable after the pandemic.
Uncertainty is a person topic that will dominate budgeting this 12 months, Tremble stated.
“Budgeting-clever, it’s most likely likely to be just one of the most tricky yrs we have had, just simply because of the uncertainty,” Tremble reported.