Small town’s abatements normalize after spike due to revaluation

Posted Nov. 08, 2011, at 4:34 p.m.

ST. GEORGE, Maine — The numbers paint a picture of a town that was more or less happy with its tax system until it had a revaluation last year for the first time in 15 years. About 120 people were unhappy with how their properties were assessed in 2010 and they showed it by filing as many abatements. Now, a year later, the dust seems to have settled.

State law required towns to revaluate to reflect market trends and in order to divide the tax burden among property owners more fairly. Consequently, St. George’s total value rose to $896 million in 2010 — a 67 percent increase from 2009. Because of the redistribution of the tax burden, about half of the property owners saw a decrease in their tax bills, but those in higher-valued areas, such as the waterfront, saw tax increases.

In 2009, before the revaluation, the town of about 2,700 people saw 16 requests for abatements. All 16 were granted for a total cost of about $4,600. In 2010, that number skyrocketed to 117 requests. Of those, 69 were granted, costing the town about $37,400. So far this year, 23 people have requested abatements and 14 have been granted. At least six of the 23 requests have not yet been heard by the board of assessors. The 14 abatements that have been granted total about $7,300.

All the revaluation-related abatement hearings ended in February 2011, according to St. George Town Manager John Falla. To him, the spike in 2010 is typical of any revaluation year.

“That’s typically what happens. We have a handful, 10-15 each year of requests and when there is a revaluation it can be up to 100. People question, ‘Why is this? Why is that?,’” Falla said. “It’s typical of any revaluation.”

At the time, several St. George residents said it wasn’t so much about the revaluation, it was about the town waiting 15 years to revaluate. Property values changed a lot and in some cases caused tax bills to quadruple. Falla knew of no one who had lost their home as a result of the revaluation. There is no future revaluation scheduled. It will occur when property values no longer align with market prices, Falla said.

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