SCARBOROUGH — Town Assessor Matt Sturgis set a property tax rate this week for the current fiscal year that is slightly lower than expected following a recent Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision that added $6.8 million in property value to the tax rolls.

The fiscal 2017 tax rate is $15.85 per $1,000 of property value, which is 2.32 percent or 36 cents more than the $15.49 rate for fiscal 2016, which ended June 30. At the new rate, the annual tax bill on a $300,000 home will increase $108, from $4,647 to $4,755.

Before last week’s court decision, the tax rate was on track to increase 2.65 percent or 41 cents, which would have resulted in a $123 increase on the same home.

Maine’s high court decided against a little-known but widespread practice of giving property tax breaks to homeowners for adjacent lots that they also own.

The justices reviewed the outcome of a 2014 superior court appeal filed by 34 residents of Scarborough’s seaside neighborhoods, who had been denied abatements after being assessed property tax increases they said were discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The landowners lost their initial claim that the former town assessor discriminated against them when he increased most waterfront land values in 2012.

However, the court found that some of their neighbors were immune to the full impact of the increase because they owned adjacent lots that were considered “excess land” for assessment purposes.

The practice, which has been permitted by state officials, led to property value reductions ranging from a few thousand dollars on inland parcels to a few million on waterfront properties. The justices found the practice to be illegal.

How the Board of Assessment Review will address the plaintiffs’ requests for abatements over the last four years remains to be seen.

However, by reassessing adjacent parcels that had been previously undervalued, the town’s overall valuation increased $6.8 million, Sturgis said, and some of those property owners will see steep increases in their tax bills.

Tax bills are scheduled to be mailed next week, with the first half-payment due by Oct. 17. For questions about tax bills, call Deputy Tax Collector Lisa Saulle at 730-4002. For questions about property values, call Sturgis at 730-4061.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchar

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