How is the Assessor credentialed?
The City of Waterville Assessor is a Certified Maine Assessor (a certification granted by the State Department of Revenue Services), a member of the Maine Association of Assessing Officers, and the International Association of Assessing Officers.
What guidelines must the Assessor follow?
Property tax administration is guided by the State Constitution, Title 36 of the Maine Statutes, and a body of case law that interprets these Statutes. Assessment practice is NOT guided by local ordinance. The Assessor is charged with establishing a list of all properties in town and estimating their market value.
For more information on State property tax law, visit http://janus.state.me.us/revenue/
How is the tax rate established?
The City Council and School Board approve annual budgets to pay for services in the coming year. The tax rate is calculated by dividing the amount needed to be raised (the budget, net of other revenues) by the town’s total assessed property value.
For example:$13,000,000 to be raised/$700,000,000 total value of all taxable properties in town = $.017 tax rate. Thus each dollar value of property would be assessed $.017; or, as more commonly expressed, property would be assessed at $17.00 per thousand. (These numbers are for the purpose of an example only).
How is my tax bill figured?
Each property owner’s responsibility for their part of the town’s annual budget is assigned to them according to the value of their property. This “share” is calculated by multiplying their individual property’s valuation by the tax rate. For example, if the value of your property is $150,000, this number is multiplied by the tax rate (.017) to determine a tax bill of $2,550.
What creates market value?
The citizens establish market value through their ongoing transactions of buying and selling property. It is the duty of the assessor to study these sales transactions and appraise properties accordingly.
When are taxes due?
The due dates are set each year, usually the second Friday of October, December, March, and June. Each property owner pays part of his or her bill by each of these dates.
What causes property values to change?
The most frequent cause of value change is a change in the general real estate market. As demand for property goes up, prices tend to go up. As demand decreases, so do prices.
An individual property can also change in value due to changes to the property itself. If something is added, such as a garage, bedroom, or pool, the value increases. On the other hand, fire, demolition, or depreciation from poor maintenance can decrease value.
Sometimes external economic forces can also change value. For example, if a major employer leaves town it tends to depress the local economy and thus property values. In another case, homes that have always been on a dirt road will increase in value if the road is improved and paved, creating better access. Times of general inflation also drive up property values.
Why does the Assessor need to visit my property?
The Assessor visits properties to assure the accuracy of the data on the property record cards, which are used to formulate each assessment.
If the Assessor asks to view the interior of my home, must I let him in?
No. You may either decline or ask to set up an appointment for another time that is convenient to you.
What if I think my taxes are too high?
The amount of one’s tax bill is determined by the size of the budget, which is established by the Council and the School Board. The Assessor does not determine the budget or collect the taxes.
On the other hand, the property owner’s proportionate responsibility for that budget is determined by one’s property valuation. If the owner believes that the current value placed on their property is inaccurate, unfair, or overvalued relative to the current real estate market, they may take the following steps, in order:
- Review the property record card (available in the Assessor’s office or over the internet) to assure the accuracy of its data
- Check sale prices of similar homes in the area
- Provide evidence to the Assessor that the property is overvalued
- Request a valuation review by the Assessor
- Make a formal abatement request if not satisfied by the Assessor
- Make a formal appeal to the local Board of Assessment Review.
May the town grant real estate tax exemptions or tax reductions to selected properties for purposes it deems useful?
No. In Article 9 section 9 of the State constitution we find that “the legislature shall never, in any manner, suspend or surrender the power of taxation”. This has been widely interpreted by the courts as meaning that only the legislature can add or remove rules for real estate taxation. Having said this, the State does provide a few vehicles for reducing one’s taxes, for example the Tree Growth program or the Farm and Open Space program. Also, the town could purchase the property in question and thus make it exempt from taxation (this does have the effect of raising everyone else’s taxes by removing the property from the tax roll.)