York Town Hall in York. Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel | Wikipedia Commons

YORK, Maine — When taxpayers received their bills last month, almost everyone in town got a double jolt. Not only did the tax rate go up 20 cents per $1,000 of valuation, but three quarters of the properties in town went up in value as well.

“I don’t know if you’ve been getting any phone calls,” Assessor Rick Mace told the Board of Selectmen at a recent meeting, “but my phone has been ringing pretty steadily, and I’ve been getting a lot of emails.”

The tax rate is set at $11.15, where it had been in 2016. Last year, the tax rate went down 20 cents, primarily based on several significant projects coming on line, particularly the Cliff House. But this year, there were no such major projects. Last year, the town picked up $103.1 million in new construction; this year, that number was $87.7 million.

This year for the first time since 2006, the assessor’s office undertook an analysis of its “cost tables” — a software program that calculates a square footage of a new structure or an addition to an existing building to come up with a value. Buildings are assessed at cost replacement, less depreciation.

“Cost replacements are always low. You have a house valued at $200,000 but it would cost you $300,000 to replace it, say. So you have to use an average,” said Mace. “What we’ve seen this year talking to contractors and seeing reports coming through the office is that our cost replacements were low.”

The cost table analysis indicated many properties needed to be adjusted before assessors made market adjustments, said Mace.

“We increased a good number of properties this year just by increasing the cost tables alone without adjusting any neighborhood land tables,” he said. “So a lot of people saw a $30,000 increase in their values. That was fairly common — colonials, capes, ranches all went up.”

Of 11,012 real estate accounts in York, 7,414 saw an increase in valuation, he said. “Those are the people that got hit pretty good,” said Mace. Another 2,000 properties remained the same, and nearly 1,600 went down in value.

The reason for the increase in the tax rate is purely numerical, he said. The taxable valuation in town increased by 4.15 percent but the budget increased by 5.9 percent. “When that happens, you have a tax rate increase,” he said.

Total taxable valuation of the town is $4.4 billion, up $176.9 million from last year. That leaves York firmly once again as the second wealthiest town on valuation alone, behind only Portland. “We’re still about $400 million ahead of South Portland, which is in third place,” said Mace.

A lot of people also sold property in York this year. There were 523 qualified sales this year, “a lot of sales for a town,” and compared to 433 sales last year. “Most towns don’t get to that number in a five-year period. For a primarily residential town, that’s a lot of transfers,” Mace said.

For all the people who have complained, he said, most are concerned about the tax rate increase, not the increase in valuation. To date, only two residents have appealed their tax bill to the Board of Assessment Review, he said.

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Featured image by Kenneth C. Zirkel used under Creative Commons 4.0.