WATERVILLE — The city likely won’t postpone the revaluation that will hike some tax bills this year, city officials said Friday.

But it’s also not making more money as a result of the property revaluation — in fact, it expects to receive less, according to City Manager Michael Roy.

Some city residents who will pay higher taxes as the result of the revaluation expressed their anger at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, where councilors voted 5-2 to override Mayor Nick Isgro’s veto of the $38 million budget, which represented a lower tax rate than last year’s. In light of that resident anger, some councilors speculated the revaluation — the city’s first since 1992 — could be postponed.

Isgro said Friday that doing that would cost the city “hundreds of thousands of dollars” that would ultimately have to come from the city budget.

Postponing the revaluation “is not a good option, mostly because the majority of the people are not arguing what their valuation is.”

Roy said Friday that a revaluation updates the value of property and redistributes the amount of money people pay in taxes throughout the city to more fairly reflect those property values. He said many commercial taxpayers have been bearing the burden of city taxes for many years.


“We are not collecting one dollar more as a result of the revaluation project than we would have been without it,” Roy said. “We are just collecting it from different sources. People assume the revaluation was a way to boost our revenue. The tax burden is being redistributed.”

The city last year collected $18.5 million in property taxes, and this year it is trying to raise $17.9 million, according to City Assessor Paul Castonguay.

Roy said a lower amount is being sought because the budget was reduced from last year.

The fact that the budget is being reduced didn’t keep city residents from packing the council chambers Tuesday for the override vote with many expressing anger that their taxes are substantially increasing.

On Friday, city officials said the council on Aug. 1 will consider reopening the budget and see if there are places to cut.

Roy, who said his own tax bill is going up $626, believes most people concerned about their tax increase don’t have a problem with their new assessed value — that if they were to sell their property, they would get a better price.


“Many of those who expressed concern are not faulting the value assessment, but the resulting bill,” he said. “It’s all about fairness in taxation. People should be assessed based on values, the market value. If there’s a big shift occurring, that means some categories of taxpayers were carrying a greater share of the burden than they should have. This is about fairness in valuation.”

The City Council in December 2014 voted to approve a $3 million bond that included $300,000 for a property revaluation, but discussions about the need for a revaluation started as early as 2012.

“We’d been hearing over and over that people felt that the city had a high mill rate compared to our neighbors,” he said. “What we quickly came to realize is that our neighbors, Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland, had completed revaluations, so their property valuations were at or very close to 100 percent. Our property values were at 80 percent.”

Roy said he has heard from a few satisfied taxpayers who own businesses.

“Over the past several years, 10 to 15 years, the commercial properties were assessed at much closer to 100 percent of value than the residential sector has been,” Roy said. “It shifted, and the reason is the commercial market has not appreciated anywhere near where the residential market has.”

Castonguay also said the revaluation more fairly distributes the tax burden.


“Sometimes revaluations are called ‘equalization projects,’ ” he said. “It equalizes the tax burden according to market value.”

Some city residents’ taxes will decrease as a result of the revaluation, some will stay the same and others will increase, although figures outlining the percentage of each are not yet available.

There are 5,527 parcels in the city, including residential, commercial and industrial properties, including 287 that are tax-exempt, Castonguay said.

Those 5,527 are worth $1.23 billion, but the tax exempt properties within that total are worth about $311 million, or about 30 percent of the value, according to Castonguay. Tax-exempt property includes non-profit groups like churches and private schools, including Colby College.

Roy said both the assessed value — what’s determined in a revaluation —and the tax rate make up a tax bill.

In a revaluation, an inventory of all the property in the city is taken and it’s confirmed that what the city has on record is correct, according to Roy. Type and condition of building are noted, as are changes since the last revaluation, deterioration that may have occurred is described and records are updated.


Then, officials do a sales ratio study by looking at property sales in particular areas of the city, such as the north and south ends, and take that market data and translate it into rates for building values depending on location and develop market data, Roy said.

“They take a house and say, ‘Let’s apply the information we’ve collected — where the house is, how big it is, the condition, whether it is brick or wood, whether there are any new additions.’ They take that and apply the market rate they have developed and say, here’s your new value.”

Taxpayers who have questions about their new valuation or dispute those values requested a hearing, and that hearing process is ongoing, according to Roy.

The revaluation started last fall, and Roy said that Vision Government Solutions of Northboro, Massachusetts, is “supposed to turn over the project to us by Aug. 1.”

Castonguay said that as of Monday, 277 hearings for residential properties had been scheduled and 20 had been scheduled for commercial properties.

Tax bills are expected to be mailed out next month.


There is no hard and fast rule about when or how often a municipality must do a revaluation, but there are state guidelines that require municipalities to do revaluations when the overall assessments are less than 80 percent of market value and the quality rating is greater than 20, according to Castonguay.

Roy, who’s been city manager for 11 years, said that the fact it’s been so long between revaluations could be “it is not a fun thing to go through.

“I think everyone delayed the very, very difficult exercise we knew it was going to be,” he said. “Revaluation creates some winners and some losers. The winner doesn’t often come forward and say, ‘Thanks for my lower tax bill.’ ”

Staff writer Lauren Abbate contributed to this story.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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