Property owners will see an 86-cent drop in Harpswell’s tax rate this year, from $6.76 to $5.90 per $1,000 of valuation, because of growth in townwide valuation. However, the impact on individual tax bills will vary because of a revaluation designed to bring assessments closer in line with market values.
Harpswell Assessing Agent Debbie Turner estimates that about a third of tax bills will stay the same, while a third will go up and a third will go down.
The Board of Selectmen set the rate during a special meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16. Bills will likely go out the week of Aug. 22.
“The increase in the Town’s valuation, from new construction and assessing adjustments, is the primary factor in the decrease of the tax rate from $6.76 in 2021 to $5.90 in 2022,” according to a town newsletter that will go out with tax bills.
The Massachusetts assessing firm KRT reviews Harpswell real estate sales every year. This year, KRT performed a two-year sales analysis and made recommendations to adjust the “tables” the town uses to calculate assessments.
“As a result of this analysis, KRT proposed changes for assessment purposes that more accurately reflect market value,” the newsletter says. The Board of Selectmen adopted those changes, “resulting in a revaluation of all properties in Harpswell for the 2022 tax year.”
For the two-year period from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2022, town assessments stood at about 82% of market value, according to a memo from Turner to the select board. The revaluation brings those assessments to about 96% of market value.
“As a result, the average assessment increased by 17.07%,” Turner said in the memo.
Towns conduct revaluations to “equalize the valuations so that no one taxpayer pays more or less than their fair share of the tax burden,” according to Maine Revenue Services.
A revaluation often involves visits to every property in a town to inventory data on buildings and lands, but this year’s revaluation did not involve property visits. Harpswell’s last full-scale revaluation was in 2005.
Deputy Town Administrator Terri Gaudet said that when taxpayers receive their bills, they can direct any questions about changes in their assessments to Turner at 207-833-5771 ext. 114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harpswell’s growth in valuation more than offset rising expenses for public schools and town government, allowing for the dip in the tax rate. Before the revaluation, town officials had predicted a 3% hike in the tax rate.
Several factors affect the tax rate, including Harpswell’s share of the budget for Maine School Administrative District 75; the budget for municipal government; non-property-tax income, like excise taxes and state revenue-sharing; the use of surplus from previous years; and the value of new construction.
Harpswell’s share of the 2022-23 budget for MSAD 75 totals $9,236,792, an increase of $511,555 or 5.86%. Harpswell’s 2022 town budget totals $6,337,339, an increase of $649,236 or 11.41%.
As of 2020, Harpswell had the lowest rate among Cumberland County’s 28 municipalities, according to Maine Revenue Services. Long Island, with a population of just 234, was the only other municipality below $10.