2018-05-18 / Front Page

Reval numbers expected in August

By Grant McPherson Staff Writer

The question of whether or not to include the estimates from the commercial and industrial property revaluation loomed large in the finance committee’s discussion on May 10.

Some town councilors were convinced it was an appropriate method for determining the budget while other councilors and residents were uneasy using the revaluation to help reduce the tax rate.

The committee, comprised of councilors, Chris Caiazzo, Peter Hayes and Shawn Babine, ultimately voted unanimously to recommend council accept the calculation by Town Manager Tom Hall of an estimated $133,062,780 in town valuation which would result in an approximately 1.44 percent increase to the tax rate for fiscal year 2019.

Town council was scheduled to have a second reading and vote on the fiscal year 2019 budget Wednesday, May 16.

The town will pay KRT Appraisal $66,000 for the commercial and industrial revaluation, which began in April.

The exact valuation number won’t be known until appraisers are finished, which is expected by the end of August. Hall said he has spoken with appraisers and the estimated additional valuation in town is a cautious prediction based on what appraisers have found so far.

Prior to the start of the valuation, Town Assessor David Bouffard said commercial property in Scarborough was most likely valued at 70 percent of its actual market rate. The last commercial and industrial revaluation in Scarborough took place 13 years ago.

Babine introduced the proposal to include the added valuation to the town’s budget consideration, and said it was policy to do so in the event of a town wide revaluation.

Hayes said that because the revaluation wasn’t in council’s consideration when it promised to keep the tax rate increase below 3 percent, residents may feel like the revaluation was used as a way to skirt that promise.

“I’m saying that by doing this one way we stay within the methodology and if we go with this, people will feel we didn’t deliver 3 percent because of the revaluation,” Hayes said. “That could be the perception and we need to be aware of that.”

Caiazzo disagreed and said as long as the tax rate doesn’t increase by more than 3 percent, council has done its job.

“I think based on these numbers in front of us, we more than adequately met our goal without any adjustments to the budget,” Caiazzo said. “My goal, and my promise when we set that goal, was we would deliver a tax rate to the town of three percent or less. We didn’t talk about what went into that or how that happened or what we were going to do. Now we’re talking philosophies on whether it’s the right way to meet it. We have to make a decision based on the data in front of us and I believe the data is sound. We can’t control others’ beliefs. We go through this every year. I don’t see how adjusting our normal procedure to try and avoid that.”

Babine said he’s been involved in 13 budget processes throughout his time in Scarborough and the town’s valuation is always recommended by the town manager. He said he trusts Hall to employ the proper methodology based on experience and knowledge.

“Based on that judgment, it’s not unreasonable to take into consideration the numbers he’s given us,” Babine said. “Let’s be honest with what we’re dealing with right now. There’s going to be people in this town that use the budget process to continue advocating for their issue around the recall vote. And they’re going to use that no matter what we come in at, no matter what is going on and that’s a fact that we have to deal with. No matter what the number is they’re going to say it’s not low enough. The issue is whether we as councilors are comfortable in believing and understanding and truly accepting the fact that we’ve done our job on delivering a budget that continues the services that our constituents, which means the entire town, has become accustomed to.”

Resident Larry Hartwell said a town revaluation is supposed to be revenue neutral and should not be used to increase town spending. He said the town has a history of using one time sources of revenue to ease budget restrictions such as the leftover funds from the Wentworth School construction, and this town valuation prediction falls into that same pattern.

“If you’re going to pass the budget, let’s use the valuation that the policy calls for,” Hartwell said. “We can’t meet the 3 percent, it’s actually 4.6 we’re adding in the overlay. Let’s just call it what it is. Use the valuation that you set down as a policy in 2016 that has been computed by the assistant town manager using that policy and which is in the tax computation that was given to us at the initial presentation. That’s all I ask. Otherwise this whole process has been a waste of everyone’s time. If we didn’t have this valuation to reach out for we would be talking about a 4.7 percent increase. Let’s be honest with the taxpayers.”

Hayes said ultimately the town will have to vote for the budget, and garnering support for passing it will require convincing residents that the methodology is sound.

“The bigger hurdle for us to think about is, Shawn made reference to is, what is our message going to be to our community that’s going to come out and vote for the budget and what is their expectation about what the numbers are,” Hayes said. “If our goal was to get the budget to pass the first time, because I don’t think any of us want another four months of all that we’ve gone through, we need to think how we communicate this so when people come to the polls, and at that point in time the municipal budget will be done, this needs to be well thought out about how we get to yes.”

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

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