Cape Elizabeth OKs sharing tax assessor; Scarborough expected to agree

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council has approved sharing the tax assessor with Scarborough.

Councilors on Monday, April 6, approved having assessor Matthew Sturgis work for both towns.

The plan still needs to go before the Scarborough Town Council, will is expected to vote on the collaboration on April 15.

Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said he believes the proposal will be approved.

“I’ve talked to nearly all of (the councilors) and they’re all in favor of the idea,” Hall said Wednesday.

Cape Elizabeth councilors unanimously approved the collaboration. Councilor Jim Walsh said he believes the town will benefit from the agreement.

“Government is expensive, especially when you’re replicating services in every town,” he said.

If passed, the collaboration would save Cape Elizabeth $34,000; Scarborough would save $50,000. 

Cape Elizabeth currently pays Sturgis $83,450 a year; the two towns combined would pay him $99,500. Including benefits and other factors, the position would cost the towns a total of $132,000 a year, with Cape Elizabeth paying $79,000 and Scarborough paying almost $53,000.

Cape Elizabeth’s current cost for the position is $113,700. Scarborough’s current cost is around $100,000.

Sturgis, who has worked for Cape Elizabeth since February 2001, would split his time between the towns: he would spend 60 percent of his time in Cape Elizabeth, and 40 percent in Scarborough.

According to the Cape Elizabeth town website, the combined state valuation of the two towns is $5.4 billion, which would be the second highest in the state after Portland’s $7.7 billion.

If the collaboration is approved, Scarborough would eliminate its full-time chief assessor position. William Healey previously held the job, but recently left to work for Lewiston. Scarborough’s deputy assessor, Susan Russo, will remain in her position if the plan goes into effect.

“We found ourselves in need of an assessor,” Hall said. “I knew of Matt Sturgis for his excellence in assessing.”

Hall said he’s looking forward to working with Sturgis and Cape Elizabeth if the arrangement is approved.

“I’d like to be in a position to talk with other towns about how they handle assessing,” Hall said. “I think collaborating is something that’s politically attractive.”

Under the arrangement, Sturgis said he would not be involved in tax appeals still pending in Scarborough.

In 2012, about three dozen property owners sued Scarborough after the town wouldn’t issue tax abatements. The home owners, whose properties were on the shore, claimed former Assessor Paul Lesperance unfairly increased their property taxes.

Sturgis on April 1 said he will be focusing on “going forward and performing the assessing duties to the best of my ability.”

If the collaboration is approved, it would start as a one-year trial agreement. Cape Elizabeth Town Manager Mike McGovern said it would go into effect immediately following approval by Scarborough councilors.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.