Assessors tardy on response time

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Residents who have had questions about their recent property assessments have had a hard time getting answers.

Some of those inquiries, which were made to the company Vision Government Solutions, have gone unanswered for as long as three weeks to a month.

For now, the solution has been to double up on the Vision Government staff available at the Casco Town Office.

According to Town Manager Dave Morton, because of the work involved after a property revaluation occurs, “they have gotten behind.”

“A lot of it is the result of the aftermath of revaluation. Whenever you have a revaluation, there is a lot of cleanup,” he said.

But, local property owners who have phoned the company based in Northboro, Mass., have not heard back from anyone.

“It’s more people coming in, saying ‘I don’t like my value of 100, it should be 80.’ If a response isn’t forthcoming, people get frustrated. They come into the office, saying, ‘I’ve made this request, and I haven’t had the courtesy of a response,’ ” Morton said.

The re-occurring issue was brought up during the Casco Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday night.

“The (town-contracted) assessors work for the board, not the town manager. That is why they are involved in the discussion,” Morton said.

“I am technically the tax collector. The law requires separation between tax collection and revaluations and assessing,” he said.

Board members said that going forward — as the town reviews referrals for proposals (RFPs) from assessing companies — the selectmen will have specific language to address timelines for getting back to residents’ inquiries.

Currently, the town has advertised for RFP for the year-round assessing job. The timeline for that bid to be awarded is prior to the new fiscal year, July 1, Morton said.

Selectman Tracy Kimball said that good customer service is an important objective for any company; and that was lacking if people who tried to contact Vision had heard nothing for several weeks to a month.

Morton said that the clerk’s office “is trying to take care of that as best as we can,” explaining the situation to people who have complained about it.

“In our contract, we should set some expectations of what we want our turnaround time to be,” Kimball said.

Morton clarified that the town hired the company as its assessor. Vision is under a contract to do the town’s assessing work, and is not employed by the town.

Also, Vision was awarded the contract to do a property revaluation for Casco. That job started in the summer of 2012, and wrapped up during the final quarter of 2013. Although most field work was completed in August, it was not until October that all the values were recorded into the computer database.

As far as the assessing duties go, Vision’s contract required an assessor to be in the town office one day a week.

“Now, a second person is coming in during the week. They are doubling up, and making that effort,” Morton said.

“Paul McKinney is our contact person with Vision. He is the person in charge,” he said.

McKinney is the second employee spending one day out of the week at the Casco Town Office.

“He said they will get things caught up, and he asked that I forward to him any concerns and complaints,” Morton said.

 

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