Casco values down; tax bills belated

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Casco residents might think they have dodged the tax man.

At least that might be the hope of local citizens when those property tax bills do not arrive in the mail during the usual timeframe.

It will be a brief reprieve, however, because the property revaluations are being wrapped up later than originally anticipated.

According to Vision Government Solutions District Manager Paul McKenney, “Unfortunately we are a little bit behind schedule.”

“There are between 200 and 300 lakefront properties that still need to be done in a week or so,” he said.

McKenney reported on the revaluation process during the Casco Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday.

“We will finish it by Aug. 30,” he said.

Then, every landowner will be sent a letter notifying them of their property revaluation. Those letters will be mailed out on Sept. 4.

That belated schedule “will be a problem” for summer residents who vacate the state, and will “be gone during the hearing process.”

Upon receiving their notification in the mail, people can set up appointments for the hearings, which will begin on Sept. 13. Property owners can begin scheduling those appointments from Sept. 5 through Sept. 13; and they can do so by calling Vision or using the company’s website, McKinney said. Out-of-state residents can participate in hearings via phone conferencing, he said.

From the initial results, land values have dropped since the last revaluation was done, McKenney said. With lower property values, he anticipates scheduling fewer conferences with homeowners.

According to Town Manager Dave Morton, the belated timeframe will pose a problem for the town. Usually, tax payments start coming in earlier, and help pay the town’s bills.

“We are running into concerns because we are running late. We are worried about cash flow, and if we will have to borrow money,” Morton said.

He asked McKinney when his company would send tax values to the town’s computer system.

“I am hoping to do some testing before doing the commitment,” Morton said.

McKinney answered that he could start with some trial numbers.

“When we do the hearings, we will have live data. It won’t take very long to finalize that once we finish the hearings,” he said.

McKinney hesitated to comment on how much, or by what percentage, property values had dropped.

“I don’t want to say anything about values, but it looks like they are going to come down. It looks like there will be a significant drop in property values,” he said.

“We got into 68% of the properties, which is good,” he said, adding most revaluations average 50% on-site visits done to ascertain the values of homes and properties.

He said the revaluation team engaged in three means of contacting people; and door hangers “got a lot of response.”

“We didn’t have any problems from people. We gave property owners plenty of opportunities to allow us to get onto their property — if they wanted that,” he said.

McKinney told the board that there are about 200 to 300 properties on Big Sebago Lake that still need to be revalued — either by on-site visits or estimations. Employees on the revaluation team had not entered those properties or homes, he said.

For the most part, land sales in Casco have decreased in most recent years, McKinney said.

He explained that in order to assess values he converted the first acre into square footage. People buy property based on the buildings on it, and not the entire acreage, he said.

“If you buy a quarter-acre lot, you aren’t going to pay double for a half-acre lot because you are paying for the house on it,” he said.

The results of the revaluation will be available on the town’s website around Sept. 4, when notifications are mailed to Casco property owners.

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