SKOWHEGAN — Expect a knock on your door from a data collector in Skowhegan sometime over the next 10 months.

A townwide property revaluation is underway for all homes and businesses this year as municipal officials seek to establish equity in property values. The revaluation project is the first comprehensive examination of commercial and residential property for tax purposes since 1991.

A lot has changed in the real estate market in 25 years — some properties are assessed for taxation at significantly less than their fair market value, while others are closer to the real value, Town Manager Christine Almand said.

The revaluation, performed by Vision Government Solutions of Northboro, Massachusetts, is mandated by Maine Revenue Services and will take about 10 months to complete.

“Every property is going to be visited and they’re going to be asking for the ability to go into each property,” Almand said. “The advantage of doing this is to make sure that everyone is on an even playing field as far as their tax bill — everyone is paying their fair share. It’s about equality.”

Now there are two women carrying out the inspections, taking photos and measurements of the exterior of commercial and residential buildings and visiting the interiors of the buildings as well, Almand said.

The current valuation of the town of Skowhegan is $953,174,900.

Building characteristics such as size, age, quality of construction, construction materials, improvements, story height and condition are noted, according to an informational pamphlet available at the Town Office or on the town’s website. To ensure a home or business is inspected, a homeowner or company representative must sign a property record card to verify the inspection. The entire process takes 15 to 30 minutes.

Almand said some property values will increase, some will decrease and some will stay the same, depending on the degree to which a property is overvalued or undervalued compared to similar properties.

As the inspectors move through town, their progress will be charted on the town’s website.

The results of the property assessments will be used to calculate the 2017-18 tax bill, she said. Almand said the town’s assessors keep property records and routinely visit homes and businesses, but occasionally an addition to a building or an expansion might “slip through the cracks,” so it’s good to do a comprehensive house-by-house inspection.

Each of the inspectors will carry photo identification, and information about them is on file with the Skowhegan Police Department, she said.

“This is a very large undertaking to visit every single property,” Almand said. “For this large of an undertaking, it’s nice to go to an outside company that’s going to be able to bring in several staff and be able to focus on just this project.”

The project will cost the town $207,000, which was budgeted at the 2015 Town Meeting. Money that had been raised in previous years to complete the project was spent on the legal process of assessing the Sappi paper mill and the challenge that followed, Almand said. “That money was supposed to go toward the reval, but that was a more pressing matter,” she said.

Almand said if a business owner or resident isn’t comfortable having someone enter their property or take a picture, they can call the assessors’ office at 474-6903 or the Police Department at 474-6908. If no one is at the home or business when the data collector arrives, a letter will be sent to homeowners and business owners to call and schedule an appointment at their convenience.

“You do not have to allow them in your home,” Almand said. “I consider it in your best interest to allow them in the home, otherwise there may be an assumption made and an estimate of the interior value will be done.”

Exceptions to the visits include the Sappi property on U.S. Route 201, which has a capped value for taxation at $380 million as part of the settlement with the paper company and is considered a special use property. Also left out of the revaluation process is the Brookfield Hydro-electric dam, Central Maine Power distribution and transmission lines and poles, Summit Natural Gas lines to the Sappi mill and the Maine Water Co.

Almand said the town’s contracted assessor’s assistant, William “Bill” Van Tuinen, will handle the assessments of the excluded properties for the town. Van Tuinen said he will do the evaluations because he has the local expertise to assess local companies and their property fairly and accurately.

“Their value is going to be updated just like all the others, but it’s going to be done by me, rather than the revaluation company,” Van Tuinen said Tuesday. “I think I have a lot of experience doing that kind of property. It was our opinion and certainly my opinion that we’d be better served by me doing them.”

Van Tuinen said he does assessment work on five or six hydro-electric dams in Maine and has experience with CMP properties in other towns in the state.

When the revaluation is completed, notices will be sent out listing the new values of properties. Public hearings will be scheduled if residents or business owners want to contest their new assessment.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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