Cushing revaluation nears its end

Posted Oct. 20, 2012, at 12:50 p.m.

CUSHING, Maine — The yearlong revaluation of properties in this coastal town is nearly complete, with the town expected to finalize the numbers and set the new tax rate by the end of the week.

The town’s assessor’s agent said one of the things that stood out to him during this revaluation has been the number of buildings erected without the knowledge of the town.

Garnett Robinson noted that Cushing does not require building permits unless something is built in the shoreland zones. Two years ago, the town adopted an ordinance that creates an intent to build form for property owners, but he said that has not been followed by many people and the ordinance lacks an enforcement mechanism.

As a result, he said many homes and other buildings have been built since the last revaluation was completed in 2003 but have not been assessed.

Robinson also noted that with the use of aerial photography he has discovered wharfs that were not listed in 2003. He has also found homes that are waterfront properties but that were not listed as being waterfront.

“There were a lot of inequities,” he said, but added that the new assessments will correct those issues.

Robinson’s company, Maine Assessment and Appraisal Co., conducted the current revaluation. The cost was $90,000, which includes his services as assessor’s agent.

The projected new tax rate is $11, which will be down from the current rate of $13.25. He said the $11 remains an estimate but that a final rate should be approved by the end of next week.

The overall valuation of the town is up about 15 percent from last year, he said, with about a third of that increase due to finding buildings that were not previously on tax records.

Notices of the new tentative valuations were mailed to property owners at the end of last month. Since then, the assessor’s agent has met with property owners who have questions or challenges to the new valuations.

Robinson said fewer than 200 people have asked for hearings. He said that is less than 10 percent of the 2,500 properties in town, which he said was a sign of the revaluation being good.

Dozens of people who own properties in some high-end residential subdivisions have filed for abatements, claiming the values were excessive. The Board of Assessors has rejected abatements of 20 percent for them for 2010 taxes and in September rejected a 55 percent abatement request for 2011 taxes.

The property owners filed a court appeal over the 2010 taxes but that was put on hold at their requests pending the outcome of the revaluation. The 2010 abatements would cost the town about $50,000 if granted, while the 2011 requests would cost $116,000.

A telephone call was left Friday afternoon for the attorney for the property owners.

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