MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — Towns here have seen consistently high payment of taxes by property owners despite a worldwide pandemic over the last two years.
Hopefully that trend can continue, but similar to what recently happened in Bar Harbor, at least two of the other towns are preparing to do a town-wide revaluation in the next couple of years.
Mount Desert recently began their revaluation process, which was last completed in 2007. Assessor Kyle Avila anticipates some property owners in the town can expect to see an increase in their taxes after next summer.
“MDI being the market that it is, such a huge demand, I can’t imagine any properties going down here,” he said in a recent conversation with the Islander. “In a typical year in my town, I’ll see 40 or 50 sales in a good year. In the last three months, I’ve seen 65 sales.
“Assessments are market based,” Avila explained. “We take a snapshot in time. That changes over time because the market changes.”
Town-wide revaluations take a couple of years to put in motion. Avila started researching companies for a town-wide assessment in July 2020.
“My primary motivation for the reval was initially due to needing to adjust what we call the “cost schedule” that was developed in 2006-2007 (also known as the cost per square foot) for buildings,” Avila explained in an email. “That price per square foot is so low it is difficult to capture realistic building values. That, compounded with the recent market explosion, really necessitated the need to do a revaluation of both building and land values.”
According to Mount Desert’s Tax Collector Lisa Young, collection of taxes over the last two years hasn’t wavered much from any other year.
“We’ve stayed at the status quo, I would say, throughout the whole thing,” she said.
In Southwest Harbor, Select Board members recently opted to add into their meeting minutes that tax collection for the town during fiscal year 2021 was 99.8 percent of the total amount. So far this year, Tremont is on a similar track with taxes due at the beginning of September. Town Manager Jesse Dunbar recently reported to the Select Board that the town has collected 99.72 percent of commitment for FY22.
“Well ahead of pace for all recent years,” he added in a memo to the Select Board. “As a reminder, this amount does include prior years taxes that were paid in these two months.”
After the meeting, Town Clerk Katie Dandurand further explained that number was not a true reflection of the town’s collection for the FY22 fiscal year.
“It’s what’s collected in the month of September. It could be old taxes.”
Dandurand bases her collection on which accounts in the town are not yet at a zero balance.
“That’s what I always look at as the true picture,” she added.
Tremont is one of the towns that is expecting to conduct a revaluation in the next couple of years, according to Dandurand. It was last done in the town in 2008. Outside of budgeting for a town-wide assessment, town officials also need to decide if now is the right time to do an evaluation with real estate prices so inflated.
“It is something that is planned,” Dandurand explained, about how long it can take to get the process started. “The town doesn’t just decide one day that it’s going to do a revaluation.”
According to Avila, the recent boom in real estate will affect the revaluation but it won’t likely skew things as much as one would expect.
“People are looking at the current market,” he said. “I’m looking at sales from a year, two years ago. I’m using sales that happened a couple of years before the explosion.”
Bar Harbor did not yet have firm tax collection rates because the first installment due date was too recent, said Jennifer Sawyer, the town’s tax collector.