Scarborough tax appeals scheduled to resume

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SCARBOROUGH — The last of a months-long series of appeals on 2012 waterfront property revaluations will be take place Tuesday, Jan. 6, at 6:30 p.m.

Attorney Jon Block, representing 10 Prout’s Neck property owners, will appeal land assessments made by former Town Assessor Paul Lesperance, arguing the land value increases of as much as 15 percent were discriminatory.

The Board of Assessment Review heard appeals from owners of 12 Prout’s Neck properties on Dec. 10. Deliberations by the board on those cases are expected to begin at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14.

As the appeals process in Prout’s Neck concludes, 43 property owners from Higgins Beach and Pine Point could carry their fight to Cumberland County Superior Court, after the board denied assessment appeals on Dec. 17. Court clerks on Monday said nothing had been filed.

Lesperance, who retired last April, but has served on a per-diem basis as a special deputy assessor through the appeals process, conducted revaluation of 754 waterfront properties in 2012.

He increased assessments for 279, which led to appeals on 94 residential properties and one commercial property.

Town Manager Tom Hall said the appeals amount to $40 million in valuations that would require abating $550,000 in taxes if all the appeals are successful. So far, all have been denied.

Appeal hearings began in August for Higgins Beach and Pine Point residents, with all but one represented by attorney John Shumadine. Shumadine unsuccessfully argued that Lesperance discriminated against the appellants by excluding some properties from his revaluation and relying on sales data that was outdated and invalid.

Last month, attorney Bill Dale mounted essentially the same challenge on behalf of 12 Prout’s Neck property owners, pointing specifically to 16 waterfront properties in the Spurwink Road area that were unaffected by the revaluation.

Throughout the hearings, Lesperance argued waterfront property values, unlike the rest of the town, were not affected by the recession.

Shumadine also questioned Lesperance’s reliance on data from Maine Revenue Services to establish the revaluations closed the gap between assessed values and market values from near 80 percent to above 90 percent.

State guidelines call for the ratio between market and assessed values to fall within 90-110 percent, and Shumadine noted about 40 percent of town properties miss that mark.

The revaluation work was also reviewed by Mike Rogers of the Maine Revenue Service after a July 15, 2013, meeting with appellants Don Petrin, Robert Mullazi and Al Timpson.

Rogers summarized the work and his conclusions about Lesperance’s methods in an audit review released in late August. Rogers also analyzed sales trends through June 30, 2013, beyond the April 1, 2012 cutoff date Lesperance used. That led Shumadine to criticize the findings, because about 30 percent of the review data upholding Lesperance’s work and methods was not used by Lesperance himself.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.