Residents shine light on Scarborough’s property assessment practices
To the editor:
The state’s recent report is an attempt to support a targeted revaluation done on their watch.
On July 15, in a closed-door meeting with all of us, in which the state of Maine insisted that no lawyers be present, the state made it clear that: they were “embarrassed” by what had occurred; that the use of 6 or 7-year-old sales data to establish fair market value of property on March 31, 2012 was wrong; that 99 of 100 tax assessors would never have done what the Scarborough tax assessor did; and that in order to correct the inequities throughout Scarborough, it would cost the Ttown approximately $1 million.
In light of the state’s funding cutbacks to the municipalities, the state went further to remark that “politically” the Lepage administration could not require any town in Maine to rectify the situation if funds were not available.
The state’s exclusion of old sales data in its own report validated the absurdity of what the tax assessor tried to do. Unfortunately, to “create” an illusion of fair market value of properties on March 31, 2012, the state’s report included sales data well beyond that date through June 30, 2013. This is unfair and wrong.
The Scarborough Board of Assessment Review has always categorically refused to allow sale evidence to be introduced in a tax appeal beyond the date of March 31 in the year of an appeal.
The Board insists that this standard apply to everyone.
The report also states that Scarborough’s revaluation of a few hundred homeowners out of approximately 8,660 properties was a “mass appraisal” and as such, “inconsistencies and differences in judgment from oversight, errors and omission typically will occur.” The numbers demonstrate that this was not a “mass appraisal.” In fact, it was a small, targeted revaluation and to even imply that errors in judgment are understandable or should be expected is unfathomable.
The report also states that discrimination is a “local public relations concern.” This is outrageous. Try telling that to the unfortunate homeowners on Main Street whose properties were grossly over-assessed and intentionally omitted from Scarborough’s targeted revaluation, which in turn resulted in their not getting a property tax reduction.
Laws are in place to deter discrimination, and they should be adhered to.
If the governor approved this report and was not fully informed that post-March 31, 2012 comparable sales were used to provide the illusion of equity in an attempt to create fair market value of property for that year’s deadline, then it was a disservice to Maine.
On the other hand, if the governor was aware, and the state is turning a blind eye to Scarborough’s discriminatory practices in an election year, then that’s another issue. Either way, it’s clear by the state’s own admission in its review that: discriminatory practices were not its focus and that “the review was not a comprehensive review of all property record information within the waterfront and water influenced area.” Scarborough and Maine deserves much better from its leadership.
Don Petrin Al Timpson Bob Mulazzi