Town looks to replace assessor after revaluation flap

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Milton Selectman Andy Rawson asking why a mobile home in Milton Mills saw its assessment double, from $50,000 to $100,000 during Monday's Selectmen's meeting with the town's contracted assessor. (You Tube video image)

MILTON - Milton selectmen and townspeople grilled the town's contracted assessing agent on Monday over skyrocketing property assessments hitting many town residents after a townwide reassessment was released last month.

It was just days after Milton officials announced the town had reduced its mil rate that the new assessments were released, which not only wiped away any property tax reduction but in some cases caused property assessments to skyrocket by up to 100 percent.

Prior to Monday's meeting with Marybeth Walker from Corcoran Consulting the town released that the average increase in assessment foisted upon residents was more than 14 percent, with 747 properties increasing between 1-14.9 percent and 1,189 properties increasing by more than 15 percent.

The town has taxable assessments on 2,719 properties in all.

Selectmen Chair Andy Rawson said in one case, a Milton Mills mobile home had seen its assessment double, from $50,000 to $100,000.

Walker said the increase was due to mobile homes being underassessed - at an average of just 68 percent - and that most hadn't been reassessed since 2014.

Rawson and fellow selectman Ryan Thibeault said the hikes were way out of line and putting a huge burden on residents.

Walker answered that the reassessment were mandated by the state due to the town's low valuations to market price ratio. She said the state wants assessments between 95 and 100 percent, adding mobile homes were only at 68 percent prior to the recent revaluation.

But it was the method of townwide reassessment that rankled residents the most, with sales of just 2.5 percent of the town's properties (70 properties in all) - all between April 2016 and April 2017 - driving the revaluations.

That's not much to base it on, quipped one angry resident.

Walker said most of the reassessments were calculated using the percentage of increase in the properties sold then using square footage metrics and little else.

You just fed this into a computer, another resident said. "Garbage in, garbage out."

The reassessments resulted in an increase of town valuation of about $58 million with increased tax revenue of $1.4 million.

Rawson told residents that selectmen had no knowledge of the seismic increase in reassessments that were coming just days after they set the mil rate and that the budgets they are working on for next year's town meeting were not counting on the extra revenue the assessments would bring if fully paid.

While there's little town officials can do to reverse the semiannual tax bills just sent out that reflect vastly higher costs for many, Rawson encouraged anyone who thinks their property tax is unfair to file for an abatement which might ease their financial burden next spring.

Rawson, himself, said his tax bill had gone up by about a third.

Walker said all she did was try to comply with what the state mandates, and state revenue officials will determine if she ran afoul of any rules or regulations.

Meanwhile, Rawson and Thibeault voted at the end of the meeting to immediately send out a request for bids for a replacement contract assessor.

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