To the Editor:
(This letter was submitted as a letter directed to the town’s assessor and was printed here with permission.)
Our assessed property value rose by 25 percent this year. No joke! The CPI was 1.2 percent for 2020 and averaged 1.5 percent through February of this year. We are told by the Federal Reserve and notable economists that the inflation seen in March through June appears to be transient. People fleeing the big cities due to the pandemic have created a housing bubble. Yet you chose to make these assessments during a time of aberrant housing market behavior. Sounds a bit opportunistic. Will valuations return to a reasonable level when the bubble bursts? I doubt it. That appears to be the nature of government these days: ever growing and losing touch with those it represents.
Bar Harbor is a small town with a relatively small population. How much money is enough? Indiscriminately raising property taxes has the effect of driving certain constituent groups out. Already many in the service community are unable to afford to live in our town. Soon those on fixed or lower incomes will need to pack up and leave. Do we want Bar Harbor to be another Hollywood Hills where only the rich can afford to live?
When will our town start looking out for its citizens instead of trying to bilk them for every cent they can get? Shouldn’t we look elsewhere for added revenue if it is needed? Say maybe to tourists? How about a 1-2 percent sales tax for non-Bar Harbor residents? At what point will the new parking system generate surplus fungible income? Is the goal of government to have a bloated bank account at the expense of its constituents?
Also, farming out the task of assessing property values to a private company for such a small town is disconcerting. It appears to remove your accountability by referring those who might challenge their assessment to a detached, remote entity where appeals go to die.
These assessments should be alarming to anyone who lives in and loves our charming little town. Our property tax is one of the largest bills we pay each year. For it to rise 25 percent is tantamount to extortion. If this were a private company, we would all cry afoul. Like a monopoly, we are at your mercy. We have a population of less than 6,000. When did our neighbors in our town’s government lose touch with the rest of us?