WATERVILLE — The city will undergo a property revaluation starting this fall — its first in more than 20 years — after city councilors voted 6-0 to spend $305,000 for a professional study of property values.

The council voted Tuesday to contract with Vision Government Solutions Inc. to do the revaluation, which will bring property tax valuations up to full value, according to City Assessor Paul Castonguay. Vision, of Northborough, Mass., will be paid $295,000 for the work, with another $10,000 added to the contract for photographs to be taken of all properties in the city.

Property now is assessed at about 80 percent, and the revaluation effort will seek to bring that assessment up to 100 percent, Castonguay said Wednesday. Property owners can expect to see the revaluation work reflected in their August 2016 tax bill, according to Castonguay.

“The attempt is to bring everybody to market value, which equalizes the tax rate,” he said.

A home now assessed at about $80,000 would be assessed at around $100,000 with the revaluation, according to Castonguay, who added, “That’s if they’re perfect. Things aren’t going to be perfect for everybody.”

The city has asked Vision to complete the revaluation by April 1, 2016.

Castonguay says he prefers to refer to the work as an equalization project rather than a revaluation.

“We’re putting new value in it, but it’s really to equalize the tax base,” he said.

Castonguay and City Manager Michael Roy recommended Vision, which provides assessment products and services for the city and performed the most recent city property revaluation in 1993.

Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said Wednesday that people have a false impression that the city’s taxes are high because the tax rate is high. The tax rate is $27.40 per $1,000 worth of valuation.

“This will get that down,” he said. “The end result of this is that our mill rate’s going to go down. Right now, of course, we’re between 75 and 80 percent of true valuation because of the fact that we’ve waited so long (to do a revaluation). It’s too early to tell what the mill rate’s going to be, but it should be around $20, I think.”

Revaluation is expected to lead to a higher value for all of the property in the city, which means the same amount of money can be raised with a lower tax rate. In a typical revaluation, a third of properties see an increase in taxes, a third see a decrease, and a third stay the same, according to Castonguay.

Mayor Karen Heck said after the revaluation is complete, there will be a huge difference in how people perceive the city’s tax rate.

“I think it will give people a chance to understand our mill rate is not as high as they believe it to be,” she said.

All property in the city will be reassessed, including homes, apartment buildings, commercial property and vacant land. There are 5,440 parcels in the city, according to Castonguay.

Residents can expect Vision workers to be taking photos of property and knocking on doors in an effort to assess the inside of buildings. The city’s website will contain information about when and where those workers will be throughout the revaluation process.

Typically, a worker will go into a neighborhood and take photos of the outside of homes and buildings, Castonguay said.

“They will go to every house,” he said. “If there’s nobody home, they will measure the outside of the house and draw a sketch of the building. If there’s somebody home and of legal age (18) who is inviting them in, they’ll tour the inside of the building, looking at materials used, condition of materials and room counts — number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, whether the basement is finished or unfinished.”

They also will do the same upstairs, checking to see if attics, for instance, are finished or not finished, he said.

Vision employees will then pass on the assessment information to Castonguay’s office at City Hall.

“They’ll build a new model based on sales that have occurred (within the city) between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2016,” Castonguay said.

He noted if no one is at home when a Vision worker knocks, a notice will be left on the door to call a number for setting up an appointment for building visits. Typically, workers will go through a neighborhood and measure the outside of buildings and then come back later, around 4 p.m., when people who work would be starting to arrive back home.

The length of time it takes to do an assessment depends on the complexity of a building, according to Castonguay.

“An average three-bedroom, one-bath ranch takes about 10 minutes,” he said. “If it’s a more complex home, it could take 20 or 30 minutes at the most.”

Vision was chosen for the revaluation over J.F. Ryan Associates Inc. of Newbury, Mass., which bid $350,000 for the project.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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