Thursday, February 14, 2002

Cape reassessment to begin mid-March

Published in the Current

For the first time in eight years, Cape Elizabeth property owners will have their land and buildings assessed by the town for tax purposes.

Many homes will see higher assessments, though Town Assessor Matt Sturgis said he expects some property values to remain unchanged and others to decrease.

“We’ll try to bring properties in Cape Elizabeth up to full market value,” he said.

At the Town Council meeting Feb. 11, Sturgis outlined the plan for the reassessment. The project will begin in mid-March and continue through the spring, summer and fall. Data will be compiled by May or June 2003,
and adjustment hearings will be scheduled for property owners who want to correct errors on their assessments. In late July 2003, the assessments will be fixed and tax bills should go out in the first week of August 2003, Sturgis said.

Assessors will be knocking on doors around town asking to look through homes, to check for improvements like finished basements or other internal modifications that would affect value. If no one is home, assessors will be
inspecting land and building exteriors and attempting to schedule return visits to see inside homes.

Sturgis said homeowners are not required to permit assessors into their homes or onto their property, but if they don’t allow them in, the law says the owners give up their right to appeal the amount of an assessment.

“The hardest part of the whole project is determining the land values,” he said.

Some types of property may see bigger increases than others, Sturgis said. For example, the assessed value of most shorefront property in 1999 was about 65 percent of the market value for those properties.

But by 2001, Sturgis said, the market value had increased so that the assessment was about 44 percent of market value.

“It’s a pretty significant drop,” Sturgis said.

Lower-value homes may see less change than some of the higher-end homes in town, he said. And newly built homes are unlikely to change much either, Sturgis said, since those were assessed when they were built and have had little time to change.

Sturgis noted that there are two parts to property tax bills: the assessment value and the tax rate, which is set by the Town Council. He also said exemptions for homesteads or veteran status will continue and residents do not need to reapply for them.

He said any residents with questions or concerns should call his office at 799-1619, though he said he won’t be able to answer the question on every resident’s lips: “What will my assessment value be?”