Casco assessors updates board on catch-up job

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — It has not been smooth sailing for the Town of Casco’s assessors because the three-person crew was limited to two people for quite a while. That happened when the prior director retired abruptly in October. Within a week, Renee Lachapelle came aboard, at first as the interim director.

Currently, Lachapelle is at the helm as Town Assessor and two other employees have been hired to serve Casco as well.

Now, the team is navigating a charted course with state-mandated deadlines in mind so that the Town of Casco can make its tax commitment in July.

Lachapelle brought the Casco Board of Selectmen up to speed on what tasks have been completed and what is on the horizon.

The assessing team will be working on the assets’ list for businesses to determine personal property taxes, she said during a Feb. 23 meeting.

There is silver lining for Maine taxpayers, she said.

“This year, the legislature approved an increase in the homestead exemption to $15,000, which was an increase of $5,000 from last year. Next year, it will go up another $5,000,” Lachappelle said.

The Town of Casco will receive 50% back through reimbursements, she said.

“At this point with the homesteads we have on file,” the Town of Casco is likely to increase its revenues $27,118, she said.

She recommended that people apply for the homestead exemption. People qualify if they own a home and it is their primary residence for at least six months out of the year, she said.

“If you are currently not receiving the homestead exemption, I would recommend you go to the town to complete the form. It has to be completed by April 1,” she said.

Deadline is April 1 is for the 2016 tax year, she said. Once a person has qualified for the tax break, they do not need to re-apply, she said.

“It is not too often you get a program that helps with tax reliefs so the homestead program is a wonderful thing for property owners,” Lachappelle said.

Prior to sharing that bit of good news, Lachappelle got down to the numbers.

The town’s total valuation is $587,758,223, she said.

There are 3,331 parcels in Casco. The vast majority of the parcels are residents, which account for 70% of real estate in Casco. One percent is condos; 2% is exempt to property taxes; 16% are vacant lots; and 4% represents the commercial land.

Of the town’s total valuation, 1.7% is personal property tax, Lachappelle said. The Town of Casco has 145 personal property accounts, she said.

Then, she addressed abatements.

In 2015, there were 44 real estate abatements. Out of 44, five were denied. By comparison, in 2014, there were 60 real estate abatements, and 21 were denied.

“We are moving in the right direction, I would like to see that reduced by half,” Lachapelle told the board.

“That is my goal — to try to work on that,” she said.

“To date, I have three abatements to finish for this tax year, and two scheduled hearings for the Board of Assessment Review,” she said.

As far as the workload for the month of March, the assessors have begun the process of determining personal property taxes, also known as the business equipment tax.

The assessing team is preparing to send mailings, requesting asset lists from every business in Casco, she said.

“Without an asset list, it’s hard for the town to get liens on unpaid personal property taxes,” she said. That information is due April 15, she said.

Another task will be loading tax map changes such as subdivided parcels and new developments. The updates to the tax maps should be completed before July 1, she said.

Toward the end of the presentation, Lachappelle described the abrupt resignation and the scramble to make the transition amid deadlines as “a hiccup.”

However, nobody on the board was planning to keelhaul the assessing team.

Vice Chair Mary Ferandes commented.

“This board is well aware of what you’ve had to endure. Thank you, your colleagues, and our staff for all the work,” she said.


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