THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2014 PRINT THIS PAGE SEARCH:
Town of Freeport
ASSESSOR

Hours & Contact Information

Office Hours:
7:30 - 6:00 Monday through Thursday

Office Telephone: 207-865-4743 ext. 105 | Fax: 207-865-0929

Mailing Address: 30 Main Street, Freeport, ME 04032

Town Assessor: Robert A. Konczal, CMA | rkonczal@freeportmaine.com

More information can be found here.
Assistant Assessor: Louise Thibeault

Current tax year information:
Tax Rate: $15.80 per thousand
Due Dates: November 17 and May 18
Interest Rate: 7%
Fiscal Year: July 1 to June 30

Property Tax Law - is embodied in Title 36 of the Maine Revised Statutes
MARKET UPDATES

The Assessor’s Office maintains a database of property values in the town and updates these values every four years. We have completed such an update for the fall 2014 tax billing cycle. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

Why does the Assessor update valuations?
• To maintain reasonable estimates of what each property could sell for, as required by state law
• To avoid large changes in tax bills
• To avoid the large expense of infrequent revaluations
• To help apportion the property tax burden fairly, as required by the state constitution
• To maintain information that's useful to homeowners and other real estate professionals such as appraisers, banks, brokers, surveyors, contractors, and property inspectors

How is the work done?
The Assessor’s office reviews its records by doing field visits of properties across town.
It then reviews sales that have taken place recently, adjusting values in light of the current real estate market.

When was the last market update done?
Property values were updated in 2010, as well as in 2006 and 2002.

How can I participate?
If you feel that you have information that the Office should take into consideration, send the details via email to the tax assessor's office . Do not call, as electronic information results in better records: they are much easier to research, retain and respond to. Also, do not send a written letter unless your documentation cannot be sent electronically.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
• This process does not raise any 'new money' for the town; that is only done if the Town Council votes for it through the budget process.
• Property valuations are not the responsibility of the Town Council or Town Manager; they manage the budget, the spending process, and overall policies of town government. Valuations are the sole responsibility of the local assessor, who is a certified agent of the state.
• Property values are approximations. It is impossible to predict exactly what any given property will sell for.
ONLINE PROPERTY DATA SOURCES:

*Property Card Database
**April 2014 Commitment List in .pdf form (Real Estate)
***April 2014 Commitment List in .pdf form (Personal Property)
Tax Maps and other maps are also available. (Scroll down to the bottom of that page to find the tax maps.)
HOW PROPERTY IS ASSESSED

Property in Maine is assessed according to rules embedded in the State Constitution, Maine Statutes (mostly Title 36), and case law. Thus the Assessor acts as an agent of the State, although employed by the Town.

These rules all direct the Assessor to approximate the market value of taxable property within the town, using a similar system for each property class. The market tends to oscillate over time, but as long as properties are valued proportionately, then the system is considered fair. Annually the state's Property Tax Division audits the work of the Assessor to ensure compliance with legal practices.
PUBLIC COUNTER

The Assessor's office is located in the Town Hall. The office maintains a public counter at which assessment information is available, including tax maps, valuation listings according to name and according to map/lot, sales lists, property cards, and real estate transfer tax forms. These may be examined during regular office hours and copies are available for a reasonable fee.
EXEMPTIONS

(Title 36, M.R.S.A. Sections 651-678)
There are several classes of exempt property (property upon which real estate taxes need not be paid) such as government-owned property. In addition, several other personal exemptions exist.
Application forms and bulletins that describe them are available on the State's Website.

Homestead Exemption
Under this law, homeowners are now eligible for up to a $10,000 reduction in their permanent residence's property valuation (the state reduced this from $13,000 in 2010). If you have owned a home in Maine for 12 months prior to April first, you may apply for this program. Forms are available at the Tax Assessor's office or on the state's website.

Veteran's Exemption - (Title 36, M.R.S.A. Section 653)
A property owner may be eligible for a reduction in the valuation of their property if they: Own a residence in Freeport on April 1 of the tax year in question; Are a veteran who is not dishonorably discharged; Served during a recognized war period in the U.S. Armed Forces; Are over 62 or are an unremarried widow/widower of a qualifying veteran. If the veteran is under 62 but is 100% disabled due to a service-connected disability, he/she might likewise qualify. In any case the veteran must fill out a form and provide proof of service and discharge, such as a copy of their DD214 form. For veterans who served during World War II or later, the exemption is $6000, beginning April 1, 2008. For veterans serving prior, the exemption is $7000. Paraplegic veterans may receive an exemption of $47500 for a specially adapted housing unit. Applications for these exemptions are available in the Tax Assessor's Office or on the state's website.

Blind Exemption - (Title 36, M.R.S.A. Section 654)
The residential real estate of residents who are legally blind as determined by the Department of Education Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired may be exempt up to the just value of $4,000. Applications for this exemption are available in the Assessor's Office or on the state's website.
PROPERTY TAX FAIRNESS CREDIT

As of 2013, the Property Tax and Rent Refund program ('circuit breaker program') has been REPEALED by the legislature.

It has been replaced by a refundable 'Property Tax Fairness Credit' that can be claimed on the Maine Individual Income Tax Form.

You may obtain more information at: The State's webpage on this development.
TREE GROWTH

(Title 36, M.R.S.A. Sections 571-584A PL 1995, c. 236 amd.)
As a matter of public policy, the State of Maine has set up a Tree Growth category of property which values land according to rates established by the State rather than market value. A property owner who wishes to maintain land for the planting, culture, and continuous harvesting of trees may apply for a Tree Growth classification. The owner should be intent on actual long-term tree cultivation, as any change in use triggers a hefty penalty tax. To apply, a landowner should

1. have at least 10 acres in forest production
2. have a forest management and harvest plan
3. fill out an application to be filed with the Assessor's Office
4. file by April 1 in the year for which the classification is requested

For more information and an application, visit the Assessor's Office or view the State's Property Tax Bulletin # 19 on Tree Growth: Property Tax Bulletin 19
The Maine Forest Service also puts out a helpful bulletin.
FARM AND OPEN SPACE

(Title 36, M.R.S.A. Sections 1101-1121 as amended by PL 195, c.603)

Farm Land- means (under this statute) land registered for long-term use in agricultural production.

Valuation -- The assessor establishes the 100% valuation per acre on a current use basis, i.e. reflecting their value as agricultural land, not as developable land. Requirements -- At least one of the applicant's tracts must be 5 contiguous acres which produces a gross income of at least $2000 per year in one of the two or three of the five calendar year preceding the date of application. By April 1 of each fifth year, the owner must file an income report of the gross agricultural income derived from the subject property. Withdrawal -- Should the owner change the use of part or all of the property, a substantial penalty is assessed. Visit the assessing office for more information or read the State's Bulletin on the online: Property Tax Bulletin 20


Open Space - means (under this statute) registered land, the preservation or restriction of the use of which provides a defined public benefit.

Valuation -- Either market value of open space land or an alternative percentage-based method is used. In the percentage method, a reduction from market value is granted for each restriction placed on the subject property:

*Ordinary open space land -20%
*Permanently protected -30%
*Forever wild -20%
*Public access -25%

In no case can the land be valued at less than the prevailing tree growth valuation. Requirements -- A public benefit must be obtained in one or more of the following areas:

1. Conserving scenic resources
2. Enhancing public recreation opportunities
3. Promoting game management
4. Preserving wildlife or wildlife habitat

Withdrawal - Should the owner change the use of part or all of the property, a substantial penalty is assessed. It should be noted that Tree Growth and Open Space land can have the effect of increasing the value of abutting property. If interested in either of these classifications, the property owner should contact the Assessor's Office for an application and explanatory bulletin or read the State's bulletin on the subject on line:
Property Tax Bulletin 21
PERSONAL PROPERTY

The value of personal property of businesses - furniture, fixtures, machinery and equipment - that are pertinent to the conduct of that business are subject to valuation and taxation. The Town Assessor assesses these properties based on their ownership, condition, and location as of April 1.

Maine has a personal property tax refund program that is state funded, called the Business Equipment Tax Refund (BETR) Program For more information, see: BETR Info.
TAX MAPS/GIS

The Town Assessor's office maintains tax maps that are available for public inspection. These maps reflect the ownership and location of property as of the prior April 1. They are available for viewing on the site's Mapping Page.

In addition, Freeport has invested in a GIS system and is now developing applications for its use.
TIFS (TAX INCREMENT FINANCE DISTRICTS)

A TIF is a program for economic development that is available to all Maine local governments. A geographical area is designated, and some or all property tax dollars that are generated by new development in the district (the ‘increment’) are spent on things that the TIF contract specifies. In Freeport, the money is usually targeted to financing the project and facilitating economic development in the form of infrastructure improvements that benefit the town as a whole.

Community designation of a TIF district requires proper public notice, a public hearing, and a majority vote of the Town Council, and approval by the State Department of Economic and Community Development. State law places various limitations the terms of a TIF. The State has a webpage dedicated to the topic. It also prints a Manual on TIF’s, detailing the State guidelines.

Currently the Town is developing a revised local TIF policy. For more information, please contact the Freeport Economic Development Corporation.
APPEALS

(Title 36, M.R.S.A. Sections 841-850)
Abatements are reductions in one's taxable valuation. They are granted when the Assessor discovers an error in assessment or if the owner points such an error out. If the owner believes that the current value placed on their property is inaccurate, unfair, or overvalued relative to market value, they may take the following steps:

1. Review the property record card (available in the Assessor's office) to assure the accuracy of its data
2. Check sale prices of similar properties
3. Provide evidence to the Assessor that the property is overvalued
4. Request a valuation review by the Assessor
5. Make a formal abatement request if not satisfied by the Assessor
6. Make a formal appeal to the local Board of Assessment Review

The property owner has 185 days from the commitment date (which is usually at or around September 15) to file a formal abatement request.

The Assessor may go back one year in granting an abatement. The Council may go back three years, but only to correct an illegality, error, irregularity in assessment. They may not grant an abatement to correct an error in valuation of property. In making a formal abatement appeal the assessment is presumed valid and the burden is on the taxpayer to show that it is manifestly wrong in relation to just value. (CMP v Town of Moscow, 649 A.2d 320 (ME.1994))
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q. How does the Assessor decide on the value of my property?
A. The Assessor's office gathers data on all properties in town, and compares it to properties that have sold or been rented as a basis of comparison.

Q. Can I come in and have my valuation reviewed?
A. Surely. It is best if you call ahead at 865-4743 #105 or email lthibeault@freeportmaine.com to set up an appointment.

Q. Do I have to let the assessor see the interior of my house?
A. No, that is your choice. If the assessor does not see the interior, then an estimate of value will be made.

Q. What can I do to have my taxes reduced?
A. Taxes are proportionate to the value of one's property, so one must take steps to reduce that value in order to bring taxes down.

Q. Why is the first half tax bill in the fall of one year, and the second half in the spring of the next year?
A. This is because the Town's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

Q. Properties should be assessed 'fairly'.
A. The state constitution defines 'fairness' for assessing purposes as being according to the 'just value' (market value) of a property. Freeport employs two Certified Maine Assessors to follow this practice and is audited annually by the State of Maine Revenue Services agency to ensure quality control.

Q. How many taxes do commercial properties pay?
A. Commercial properties pay 29% of the property taxes, and constitute approximately 8% of the properties in town.

Q. How is the tax rate set?
A. The total taxes to be raised for the budget (determined by the Town Council) is divided by the total taxable valuation of the Town (determined by the Tax Assessor) to determine the minimum tax rate. The assessor then sets a rate up to 5% higher than the minimum in order to cover errors, uncollected taxes, etc.