Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough may share tax assessor

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The town is considering sharing its tax assessor with Scarborough.

Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall on March 17 asked Cape Elizabeth Town Manager Mike McGovern about agreeing to have Cape Elizabeth’s tax assessor work for both towns.

The Town Council will vote on the proposal at its April 6 meeting.

“We thought that Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth were a really good fit,” McGovern said this week.

The Scarborough Town Council also has to approve the proposal.

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

Cape Elizabeth currently pays Tax Assessor Matthew 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.

Sturgis said he is optimistic the plan will be approved.

“I think it’s a very exciting opportunity for both communities, as well as for me professionally,” he said.

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.

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 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. McGovern said it would go into effect immediately following approval.

“The (Cape Elizabeth) council has strongly advocated in the past for collaborating with other communities,” he said.

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.