Portland’s overdue property revaluation slated for spring

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Following a year-long delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, Portland officials believe an overdue property revaluation is finally on schedule for April.

During a City Council workshop Monday, City Manager Jon Jennings said a municipality should be doing a revaluation every 10 years, but Portland had fallen “wildly behind.” The last revaluation was completed in 2006, he said.

Homes on Vesper Street in Portland. (Portland Phoenix/Colin Ellis)

Tax Assessor Chris Huff said a revaluation ensures uniformity in property values, and the longer a revaluation goes ignored, the more inequity there is. He said the City Council approved funding for this revaluation in 2018 and negotiated with Tyler Technologies for its services.

There are five major phases to a revaluation: data collection, market analysis, valuation, field review, and informal hearings. Huff said the first stage began before the pandemic, and the city utilized new technology to more efficiently photograph and inventory properties, with less need for on-site data collection.

He said the process was sidelined last April because of the pandemic.

Portland’s current valuations average around 70 percent of market value. Huff said state law requires municipalities not to dip below that, and if the city did not complete revaluation this year, it would fall below the threshold.

He said the annual assessment date in Maine is April 1. From there, notices of new assessed values will be mailed out to property owners by May 31. By June 7, informal appeal hearings between property owners and Tyler Technologies staff will begin, with July 16 the last day to make an appointment for an informal appeal. The last day of informal appeals will be Aug. 13.

By Sept. 1, the final tax rate for fiscal year 2022 will be known, and by Sept. 10 the tax commitment will be finalized and tax bills will be mailed. A formal appeal process begins on Sept. 13.

Huff said the city expects more than 4,000 appeals.

He said there is more than $8 billion in total taxable assessed value in the city, which generates more than $187 million in tax revenue.

Councilors Nick Mavodones and Belinda Ray noted that the last time the city completed a revaluation, it was phased in over two years to make payments easier for residents to absorb. Mavodones said the council would likely have to have that discussion again, although city lawyers have questioned the legality of this approach.

“You deal with the nuts and bolts of the work,” Mavodones said of the assessor’s office. “We deal with the complaints.”

Huff said he will likely be back before either the full council or the Finance Committee in May to present the actual changes in the revaluation, broken down by neighborhood, before notices are sent to residents.