Town of Falmouth, Maine
271 Falmouth Road
Falmouth, ME 04105
Board of Assessment Review and Sewer Appeals (BAR)
Members: Richard Olson (Chair), Lois Lengyel, Tim O'Donovan, Michael O'Connor, and Mark Porada
Staff Liaison: Anne Gregory
In 2010, the BAR met four times to hear two 2009 appeals.
We had fewer appeals during the past year than the previous year. The Assessor and her staff continue to deserve credit for their efforts at explaining the assessment process and the burden on appeal to taxpayers who may continue to feel aggrieved by the sense that their properties may be over-assessed in the midst of a declining housing market.
Both of this yearâ€™s appeals involved somewhat complex and interesting issues.
The Ridgewood project continues the process of build-out and sale of units. The valuation of long term development projects involves relatively complex mathematical projections as well as significant judgment calls regarding capitalization rates in a changing environment. While the Board ruled in favor of Ridgewood again this year, the Assessorâ€™s vigilance and diligence with respect to this and other high value properties serves the Town very well.
The Mercy Hospital matter brought us face to face with significant changes in the health care system as well as a state statute that is in transition. There was an increasing trend for hospitals to lease real estate to provide offices to physicians and to bring medical practices and practice groups into the hospital.
We were faced with a situation where a medical practice located in Falmouth that had been separate from the hospital in the past (and paying real estate taxes) recently became part of the hospital. Thus we were governed by the provisions of the state statute exempting charitable enterprises from property tax. Currently, Maineâ€™s property tax law exempts real estate leased by non-profit hospitals and used by such practice groups [See 35 M.R.S.A. Â§652(1)(k)]. Current law provides that provision will change as of April 1, 2012, and after that date only personal property will be exempt.
It remains to be seen how the statute may ultimately be changed or what further steps hospitals and medical practices may take to shield themselves from real estate tax; however, we submit that the Council should be aware of the issue in connection with any positions the Town wishes to take in terms of influencing public policy or shaping commercial development.
In 2009, two taxpayers filed appeals with the Stateâ€™s Board of Assessment Review. The SBAR hears appeals regarding local BAR decisions for commercial properties valued more than $1M. As of this time, no hearing dates have been scheduled.
The deadline to appeal the 2009 assessed values has passed, so the next time the BAR might meet would be to hear appeals regarding the 2010 assessed values. The deadline for taxpayers to appeal their 2010 assessed values to the Assessor is March 17, 2011.
Once again we express our appreciation of the work of Assessor Anne Gregory and Administrative Assistant Pamela Given. Every presentation by Anne was carefully and completely prepared and shared with the Taxpayers prior to the hearing. Anneâ€™s knowledge, candor and professionalism were outstanding as she balanced her competing demands throughout the appellate season.
Pam did a great job to ensure that all parties had complete materials, kept detailed minutes of the proceedings and did a wonderful job dealing with conflicting schedules.