TREMONT — Selectmen took a step toward filling the position of assessor Monday by voting to get a proposal for that service from RJD Appraisal of Pittsfield.
Selectmen are asking RJD for a proposal to provide one-day-a-week property tax assessing services and conduct a revaluation of 25 percent of the properties in town each year. The contract would be for one year.
Until Aug. 12, Debbi Nickerson was working as assessor as a town employee. Upon her resignation, former Town Manager Millard Billings took over the duties on a half-day-a-week basis. Selectmen had been weighing whether to employ an assessor or contract out for the service.
RJD, which is owned by Rob Duplisea Jr., does assessing for a lengthy list of towns in Hancock County, including Southwest Harbor, Lamoine, Blue Hill and Castine. Town Manager Dana Reed told selectmen RJD is amenable to a range of options for providing the service.
“Really, whatever we’d like,” Reed said.
Reed advocated for RJD to be in the town office “at least once a week” in order to provide taxpayers with a reasonable level of service. Selectmen agreed.
“I like the one day a week,” said Chairman Kathi Thurston.
Selectman Kevin Buck questioned the need to do a revaluation of a quarter of the town annually.
“In my experience, it’s less expensive to revaluate part of the town every year,” Reed responded.
The length of the contract was discussed.
“Maybe a one-year contract and we see how it goes,” suggested Buck.
“One year to start seems good,” he said.
The motion to request the proposal carried 5-0.
In other business, Reed informed selectmen that the town’s Board of Appeals was to meet for the first time in two-and-a-half years. Veena Gaines of Acre LLC is appealing the town’s assessment of an apartment complex she purchased on Woodland Drive.
According to Reed, Gaines bought the property in July 2015 for $712,500. At the time, the town assessed the property at $1,305,800. Acre LLC filed a tax abatement application in January, arguing the property should be assessed at the purchase price. In July, Nickerson, who was then assessor, approved a $138,300 abatement. Acre LLC filed the appeal on Aug. 31.
Reed said Nickerson felt the seller of the property was highly motivated and willing to sell for much less than the property is worth. If Acre LLC prevails in its appeal, it would mean a loss of nearly $22,000 in property taxes over five years.
The loss of property tax revenue isn’t the only issue, Reed said. It’s important that the town treat all property owners equally.
“It’s really necessary to defend this case,” Reed said.
Reed suggested that someone represent the viewpoint of the assessor and said RJD was willing to perform that function. He estimated the cost to be $1,000 plus time spent at an evening meeting.
The Appeals Board was expected to meet Wednesday night to discuss with the town attorney on how they should proceed in hearing the appeal.