Portland residents will begin receiving their new property values this week, as officials near the final stage of the city’s first property revaluation in 15 years.

Assessor Christopher Huff said in an interview last week that information about specific properties was still being finalized and that an analysis of which neighborhoods and properties will see the biggest impacts will not be conducted until after an informal appeals process is completed later this summer.

But Huff said generally speaking about one-third of property owners will pay more in taxes, while one-third will pay less and the remaining third will pay about the same.

One data point clearly reflects the sharp rise in property values overall. Huff said the new median assessed value of a home is now estimated to be $365,000 – an increase of 52 percent over the previous median of $240,000. Some of the largest property value increases are expected to be on the peninsula, he said.

“We have had some neighborhoods have a dramatic increase in their market values,” he said. “I’ve said before the peninsula neighborhoods are ones where we have seen those larger increases in sales prices.”

Huff estimated that roughly 22,000 notices will be mailed this week and should begin arriving in people’s mailboxes late in the week, or early next week.

The property assessments were delayed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but residents like Sandy Flanagan have been dreading getting their new values.

Flanagan, 75, has lived on Munjoy Hill since 1979 and is on a fixed income. After the last revaluation, her tax bill jumped sixfold, she said. She’s been able to make ends meet by renting out the bottom unit of her Waterville Street property and living with her sister.

But Flanagan said she is worried that she will not be able to continue to pay her mortgage and increased property taxes after this revaluation, which comes as real estate prices continue to soar in Portland and across the country and as developers continue to build condominiums with ocean views on Munjoy Hill.

“I’m terrified,” she said. “I don’t want to lose my house, but if my taxes go up I’m not going to be able to stay here.”

The Maine Constitution requires communities to conduct a general revaluation of property at least every 10 years, but it’s rarely enforced. Revaluations are also triggered under state law when properties in a city or town are valued at less than 70 percent of their market values.

With 15 years lapsing from the last revaluation, Portland’s value is only 66 percent of the market value, according to the city. To update that value, the city and its consultant, Tyler Technologies, examined 45 months of sales data, from April 1, 2017, through Dec. 30, 2020, to determine new values, Huff said. That will allow the city to have a full market valuation as of April 1.

The city will not earn any additional revenue through the revaluation, which simply redistributes the property tax burden among property owners. The amount of money needed from property taxes is established by the City Council through the budgeting process. As property values increase citywide, the property tax, or mill, rate will drop, so the city raises only what has been budgeted, which is $191.6 million in property tax revenue in the current budget.

Huff said Portland’s full market value following the revaluation is estimated to be $14.2 billion – a 77 percent increase over the current valuation of over $8 billion. That is estimated to cause the city’s mill rate to drop 44 percent, from $23.31 per $1,000 of valuation to $13.49.

“It’s important to be at that 100 percent because that makes everybody’s taxes fair and equitable,” he said. “And number two, that also gets everybody the maximum allowance for any exemptions they get – the homestead exemption, the veterans exemptions.”

Huff said the threshold to determine whether a property owner will pay more in taxes depends on how their property value increase compares to the citywide increase of 77 percent. If an individual property has increased by more than 77 percent, he said the tax bill will be higher, and vice-versa.

Huff said some of the largest increases again are expected on the peninsula, especially the East End, where assessed values are much lower than recent sales prices.

That worries property owners like Denise Preisser, who has lived on Munjoy Hill for the last 20 years. The retired teacher said she was able to make ends meet after the previous revaluation by picking up a part-time job. And she predicted she would be able to weather this one, too.

But Preisser said she’s worried about her follow retirees and teachers, as well as firefighters, police officers, service workers and families who are already struggling to make ends meet. South Portland officials recently alerted residents that some property owners could see a 30 percent increase in their tax bills as a result if its first revaluation in 15 years. And Preisser said she doesn’t understand how families will be able to absorb that increase by this fall, without adequate time to plan and adjust their household budgets.

“People I know are working two jobs and they’re trying to stay here and have a nice life in Portland too,” she said. “It’s a tragedy that Portland cannot do something for the normal person working two jobs and raising a family. I know a lot of them are struggling.”

In addition to a new property assessment and an estimated new mill rate, the letter will also include information about an informal appeal process for residents who believe their property was either overvalued or undervalued. The appeals will be heard by Tyler Technologies.

Residents will be able to register for an informal appeal from July 6 through July 21, with hearings being conducted by phone from July 12 through Aug. 6. Tyler Technologies is expected to finalize the new values in late August, with the tax rolls being committed in April.

A formal appeals process will be open until March 2022.

“Mass appraisal is not an exact science,” Huff said. “We like to think we’re close, but inevitably it doesn’t always work out that way. When you’re trying to value 24,000 parcels at the same time, you’re going to have some anomalies in that process and that’s why we have an appeal process at the end of it.”


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