Farmington began an experiment this week by contracting out tax assessment services rather than having a full time assessor on staff.

Selectmen approved the switch last year after selectmen and a subcommittee debated for months whether they would save money or lose out on services if they replaced retiring assessor Mark Caldwell with a contractor.

The new contractor, John E. O’Donnell & Associates, held its first office hours this Thursday and will hold weekly office hours in Farmington every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., said Town Manager Richard Davis.

He said Farmington property owners may continue to use [email protected] for emails. Residents can also contact the assessing firm directly on any regular business day between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at their New Gloucester office at 926-4044.

Last year the town spent $126,604 to support the assessing department. By contracting the service, town officials expect to save 37 percent under the department’s proposed 2015 budget of $79,500.

The department budget still needs to be approved at the annual Town Meeting in March.

The town still will have office expenses and continue to pay a part-time assessor in the department along with a contractor. The primary source of savings will come from not having to pay benefits for a full-time assessor.

Before approving the contracting service in September, selectmen debated for months how to compare contracting services when each town has different demographics and uses its tax assessor for different sets of responsibilities. A subcommittee that reviewed proposals noted that most contractors worked with towns smaller than Farmington with less property to assess.

Selectmen eventually approved a contracted tax assessor, saying a company has its reputation and contract as an incentive to not promise services it can’t provide.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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