2018-02-02 / Front Page

Time is now for town-wide revaluation

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

For the past three years – since voters rejected a town-wide tax assessment revaluation at the polls in November 2014 – Town Manager Tom Hall has wondered when the best time to do the reevaluate the town’s commercial, industrial and residential tax assessments.

That time, he told the Leader this week, is now, at least for commercial and industrial properties

“Ever since that defeat, I’ve been thinking about the best time to do it,” Hall said. “It is not uncommon to do it in two parts.”

To that end, Hall will be asking councilors to approve, at their Feb. 7 meeting, a proposal for the town to undergo a townwide commercial and industrial revaluation. A residential revaluation request will be made as part of the fiscal 2019 budget.

“We have sound documentation that the entire class of commercial and industrial properties is severely under-valued. Any inequity in the system presents a situation where some taxpayers are paying less than their fair share and all other taxpayers are paying more than they should. The trend is so well documented that any further delays will only exacerbate the situation and make the inequities more acute,” Hall wrote in a Jan. 29 memorandum to town councilors. “Second, and the most direct reason for this proposal at this time, is the fact I now have adequate capacity in the assessing office to undertake such a project.”

For most of 2017, following the January resignation of Town Assessor Matt Sturgis, the town has contracted out assessing services, but in December former assistant assessor and planning board member David Bouffard was hired as town assessor.

Despite having a fully-staffed assessing department, Hall still recommends hiring an outside consultant – KRT Appraisal – to do the commercial and industrial revaluation. An outside consultant is necessary, Hall said, so the town’s assessing staff can “assist them and answer tax payer questions.”

Town Council Chairman Bill Donovan said he is onboard with the commercial and industrial revaluation, something the finance committee will discuss at their next meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5.

“I certainly support it. I think it is very appropriate that it be brought up promptly to rectify the inequity of our commercial and industrial value,” said Donovan, adding the last time a commercial and industrial revaluation was done was more than a decade ago.

According to valuation projections, a commercial and industrial revaluation could bring in close to an additional $175 million, including $144 million in commercial and $30.6 million in industrial.

The cost of the commercial and industrial revaluation is expected to cost $136,450, $66,000 for the KRT appraisal and $70,450 for updated software and data conversion, but since only $58,500 was authorized for the work through previous budgets, the town would need to use $77,950 in undesignated fund balance funding to fully finance the project.

Hall said if the proposal is approved by councilors, he may lean on the Scarborough Chamber of Commerce and Scarborough Economic Development Corporation to help with the outreach effort. As part of their effort, KLT Appraisals will visit each commercial and industrial property tax payer in town.

“We’ll want to reach out to the commercial and industrial taxpayers in town to explain the situation, so they can understand why we are doing this,” Donovan said.

Hall said part of the reason the townwide revaluation question failed in 2014 was due to the lack of public outreach.

If approved by the councilors, Hall said the work would start as soon as possible and be completed by April, the town’s next tax commitment.

“I characterize this as an opportunity, but by my way of thinking (a revaluation) is inevitable. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Hall said.

While this revaluation would only be for commercial and industrial properties, Hall said he would like to follow this revaluation with a residential one and intends to put a request to fund that in the fiscal 2019 budget.

“Both commercial and industrial owners will feel as if they are not being singled out here because the whole town is being done,” Donovan said. “We are just doing it in a two-step process.”

Hall said he is still figuring out the cost of the residential revaluation and if the cost is going to be appropriated or borrowed, but like the commercial and industrial one, an outside consultant will be needed.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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