Cumberland to update some property values

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CUMBERLAND — The town’s tax assessor next month will begin a review of more than 3,000 properties to bring their values up to date.

The real estate inventory is geared toward ensuring that all property tax assessments are based on correct data, particularly when improvements are made to properties where assessments have not been taken into account, assessor John Brushwein said June 14.

Maine law requires inspections and inventories of a municipality’s real estate parcels be made every four years, and 25 percent of properties would typically be reviewed each year.

“Unfortunately, that has not taken place in Cumberland for some time,” Brushwein stated in a notice posted at cumberlandmaine.com.

“During the course of inspections conducted during building permit reviews, I have discovered that the current property records are not completely accurate,” he explained. “There have been decks, porches, outbuildings, and finished areas above garages and in basements that have not been included in the assessment records. Additionally, there have been some cases where outbuildings and other structures have been removed and are still on the assessment records.”

Some of those changes have occurred after a permit has been obtained, and others have not, Brushwein said.

The town conducted a market update a decade ago, with land and building values updated according to sales analyses at the time. But a physical inventory of all properties was not part of that work, he noted.

The review, to begin in mid-July, will involve a check of exterior measurements of primary structures and outbuildings, and a review of building construction data such as roofing, siding, foundations, story height, quality, and condition. It will also entail taking a new digital photograph of the front of the primary structure.

When possible, information on the building’s interior – such as flooring, heating, basement finish, number of bedrooms, baths and total rooms – will be verified with the owner.

The review, which will encompass about 3,200 properties that have undergone improvements, should conclude by the end of the year. Tax impacts resulting from the review will not take effect until fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1, 2019.

Property owners will receive written notice if their assessed value changes more than $10,000 – an increase if they have added to their property and have been under-assessed, and a decrease if they have removed structures and have been over-assessed. Such a change would cause a $188 hike or reduction in taxes, according to Brushwein.

The number of properties to be reviewed makes it impossible to notify property owners of site visits, but Cumberland’s website will list which parts of town are being reviewed. Brushwein and his assistants will have photo identification issued by the town, and their vehicle information will be registered with Cumberland Police.

Questions can be directed to Brushwein at jbrushwein@cumberlandmaine.com.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.