Brunswick Council authorizes property tax revaluation

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BRUNSWICK — Councilors on Monday voted to authorize the town to proceed with a property tax revaluation, and issue bonds to cover the costs of the project.

Councilors voted 8-1 in favor of the ordinance, with Councilor Perreault dissenting. The revaluation comes with a price tag of $400,000.

The current tax rate is $28.36 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Councilor Jane Millet, citing her experience as a real estate agent, said Brunswick property taxes have been “out of whack” over the years. “It’s time for us to equalize them,” she said.

It has been 17 years since the town last had a property tax revaluation, according to Town Assessor Cathleen Jamison.

In the time since, some properties have been taxed at a rate higher than their actual value, while some, especially those on waterfront parcels or that have undergone renovation, are taxed at a lower rate.

Overall, the town’s ratio of assessed property is 64 percent of market value, according to Jamison.

Under state law, a town cannot fall under 70 percent of assessed value.

“This is a matter of law, we cannot avoid this,” said Councilor John Richardson.

Town Manager John Eldridge stressed that the revaluation would not result in the town acquiring more revenue from property taxes, but rather redistribute where those taxes are coming from.

Richardson likened the process to re-dividing the slices of a pie, rather than making the pie larger.

But some councilors expressed interest in delaying the vote two weeks to give the public more time to hear about the revaluation.

“This is the right thing to do,” said Council Chairwoman Sarah Brayman. “But when (some) people’s taxes go up quite a bit, equity will sound pretty hollow.”

“There are a lot of people out there that may be surprised when this goes through,” she added.

Councilor John Perreault agreed.

“There’s going to be a group of people out there that will be pissed off at this town, this council for doing this,” he said.

During public comment, two Brunswick residents spoke in favor of the project, and urged councilors to pass the bond ordinance.

Sarah Ward, of Franklin Street, said “just on my street, there are amazing inequities … so thank you, it’s long overdue.”

The town will issue a request for proposals to select a contractor for the revaluation, Town Manager John Eldridge said.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Brunswick Town Hall at 85 Union Street.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.