August 24, 2013

State backs Scarborough waterfront tax assessment hike

The town's 2012 assessments 'employ sound and acceptable mass appraisal techniques,' a state officials concludes.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH — The town assessor used sound practices and brought greater equity to property taxpayers when he increased 2012 assessments in coastal areas, according to a report released Friday by Maine Revenue Services.

click image to enlarge

Don Petrin, seen at his home on Pine Point, is among the Scarborough residents to be affected by a recent waterfront land revaluation.

2013 Press Herald File Photo / John Patriquin

Related Documents

PDF: State review of Scarborough tax assessments

The state's Property Tax Division reviewed the assessor's work after more than 90 residential property owners in the Pine Point, Higgins Beach and Prouts Neck neighborhoods appealed their assessments to the town's Board of Assessment Review.

For the first time since 2005, Scarborough increased assessments for land on or near the water to reflect current market values, pushing up some land assessments 16 percent to 40 percent for this year's tax bills.

The division released the 53-page analysis after town officials complained that a one-page letter they got Thursday lacked clear conclusions about the state's findings.

The letter said, in essence, that a review was done and no further investigation is necessary.

The full report, written by Mike Rogers, the division's supervisor of municipal services, offers clear conclusions in the first few paragraphs.

"It is the opinion of this appraiser, based on the facts and information detailed below, that the 2012 assessments employ sound and acceptable mass appraisal techniques and methodology," Rogers wrote.

"No individual areas or categories of property appear to be inequitably assessed in comparison with others," he wrote. "That conclusion is supported by the levels of equity and consistent ratios derived from the sales ratio analyses that are part of this review."

Rogers also found that the 2012 assessments "clearly demonstrate a decisive improvement in equity and assessment levels."

In particular, the report shows that the 2012 revaluation brought disputed waterfront land assessments from 79 percent of market value in 2011 to 93 percent of market value in 2012.

Meanwhile, other residential and commercial categories remained closer to 100 percent, according to the report.

The 2012 revaluation was done by Paul Lesperance, who worked for the town from 1984 until he retired in March.

Town Manager Tom Hall said Rogers' report addresses allegations that the assessor conducted a "targeted revaluation" that discriminated against waterfront property owners.

"I couldn't be more pleased that he was so direct, clear and thorough in his report," Hall said. "That detail and data will be valuable in the appeal process."

The town's Board of Assessment Review began hearing waterfront appeals Monday, and the hearings are expected to continue into September, Hall said.

Meanwhile, Don Petrin, one property owner who's appealing his assessment, questioned Rogers' analysis and said his findings validate concerns about a targeted revaluation.

"The numbers clearly demonstrate that it was a targeted appraisal," Petrin said after a quick review of the report.

The assessed value of Petrin's 0.35-acre lot on the Scarborough River jumped 25 percent this year, from $585,700 to $732,100. The overall assessment of his property at 14 River Sands Drive increased 18 percent, from $814,400 to $960,800, including $228,700 for the house.

His annual tax bill, based on the combined value of land and buildings, jumped from $10,481 to $13,320.

Petrin said it was inappropriate that Rogers' report allowed that "inconsistencies and differences in judgment on certain individual properties will occur and typically result from human oversight, error or omission."

Rogers' wrote further, "Individual cases should be pursued through the abatement provisions of (state law) and should not preclude future valuation refinements and adjustments deemed necessary" by real estate market trends.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

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