2018-04-06 / Community News

Town officials: Reval is coming

By Grant McPherson Staff Writer

Scarborough is overdue for a revaluation of property throughout town and plans to fix that this summer to ensure the tax burden is spread evenly among property owners.

The town hired Haverhill, Massachusetts based KRT Appraisal to reassess commercial and industrial property starting Monday, April 9.

Rob Tozier, vice president of KRT Appraisal, said he expects the work to be done by the end of August, in time for the tax rate to be adjusted accordingly. The last time Scarborough revaluated its property was in 2005 and state law dictates a revaluation be done every 10 years. Assistant Town Manager Larissa Crockett said the revaluation process was delayed because voters rejected a bond question to pay for it.

Scarborough is contracted to pay KRT Appraisal $66,000 for the commercial and industrial revaluation. A residential revaluation is scheduled for 2019. Scarborough expects to contract with KRT Appraisal although not finalized yet. Crockett said the town has $415,000 budgeted for the residential revaluation.

KRT Appraisal will begin in April by visiting commercial and industrial properties to inspect building exteriors. Factors that affect a business’ property value include location, size, age, quality of construction, utilities and zoning restrictions. Representatives from KRT will carry identification and letters from the town. The town is also transitioning to the Vision Government Solutions for its online assessing database beginning in August as well.

“One reason we’re doing this all together is it didn’t make sense to convert to vision with the old data,” Crockett said. “It needed to be updated at some point and it didn’t make sense to pay for the conversion of data if it wasn’t great data. At the same time KRT is revaluing they’re going to be inputting the new appraisals right into vision.”

If at the end of the appraisal process, a property owner feels their new value is not accurate, they will have an opportunity to sit down with a KRT staff member for a discussion and review any errors or oversights that may have occurred.

“It takes about 15 minutes,” Tozier said. “We listen to what a taxpayer has to say. We review the information and make any changes based on the information they provided to give us a better sense of the value. We listen to everybody and make changes where warranted. Errors could be from data or condition issues, if a property needs work we didn’t know about or has renovations we didn’t know about. There could be something wrong with the way a property was listed.”

Crockett said all property owners would receive a letter notifying them of the revaluation process and appraisers’ request to inspect the interior of the building. Property owners have the right to refuse entry to their building, but Crockett said appraisers are left to base their valuations on neighboring properties more if they can’t see inside a building. She said the revaluation is important so that residents and property owners alike pay their fair share.

“Whether we like to pay or not, that’s the system we have available to us,” Crockett said. “The biggest way to pay for services is the assessment of property taxes. It’s important to have an accurate reading so we’re not shifting the tax burden inappropriately from one person to another. Every time somebody’s tax assessment is inconsistent with the true value of their home, a property tax shift has taken place.”

Town Assessor David Bouffard said the state also requires municipalities to revalue when its assessment ratio or relationship between assessment values and market values, drops below 70 percent or rises above 110 percent. He said determining Scarborough’s assessment ratio is difficult because commercial sales are rare and may not be representative of the market, but Scarborough’s is close to 70 percent right now.

“Ordinarily, we use the same explanation assessors have been using for a long time when we have revaluations,” Bouffard said. “Some assessments go up, some go down and some stay about the same. There is movement and some stay fairly stable. Overall the ratio gets closer to where it should be, which is 100 percent. It’s really about equalizing assessments and therefore the tax burden.”

Staff Writer Grant McPherson can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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