Thank you, City Council, Manager Bennett, fellow employees, and all the residents for having me. It’s a pleasure to serve as your assessor and your welcoming has been wonderful.
As you all know by now, the annual product of the work we do in the assessing office has been delivered to the tax collector in the form of a commitment. That commitment has been processed into a tax billing based on the expenses the residents are obligated to pay to include the costs of the municipal, school, and county operations, and the bills have been sent. I speak for all involved in municipal government when I say we do understand that taxes are high and a burden to the citizens. Our job in the assessing office is to discover and assess property equitably to ensure that the tax burden is distributed evenly among all who own property.
The portion of tax process we are responsible for in the assessing office, the assessment of the value of each and every property in the city, truly is separate from the final product you receive in the mail. The assessed values do not create taxes, it is the money spent that creates taxes, and I can assure all that the Council and Management of the City work diligently to control those expenditures as much as possible.
The values on residential properties that we arrive at are based on market conditions in this area. Actual sales of the different classes of property that do occur are analyzed and the data obtained is utilized to determine the value of all like properties in the assessment process. Presque Isle is currently assessing property at 89 percent of market value as determined by the state of Maine. It is my goal to be in the range of 94 to 96 percent of true market value.
We use a combination of sales data, international valuation services, and income information to determine the value of commercial property based on the components that make up the property. Personal property utilized as business equipment is assessed based on the original cost of the equipment owned, which is trended to today’s dollar value and then depreciated for age.
Some relief from taxation is available to resident homeowners, veterans, legally blind persons, and business owners. The Maine Legislature has approved laws that allow every Maine homeowner a reduction in value of $10,000 on their primary residence (homestead). This exemption is aimed to reward Maine residents with a reduction from the burden of tax on their home. This office recently mailed out over 125 Homestead applications to residents who we believe qualify but do not receive the Homestead Exemption. We encourage anyone with questions to call or stop in to discuss this benefit. If you received a letter and application from us it is because we think you do qualify. We need you to complete the application and return it to the assessor’s office by April 1. In 2014, qualified homeowners in Presque Isle received a tax reduction of $256.57.
Every veteran who served in a war period and has reached the age of 62 is eligible for a $6,000 reduction in value on their primary residence as well. As with the Homestead Exemption, we hope every qualified resident takes advantage of the exemptions they deserve.
Businesses that pay personal property tax on their business equipment have two programs created by the Legislature to gain relief from the tax burden. BETR (business equipment tax reimbursement) provides relief to most equipment placed in service between 1995 and 2007 and certain retail equipment placed in service since 2007. The state reimburses the business a portion of the tax paid to the city in the following year in this program. BETE (business equipment tax exemption) provides relief in the form of an exemption to tax for most non-retail equipment placed in service since 2007.
We encourage every business owner to come by to discuss these programs in detail, review the forms, and take advantage of these programs designed to promote business by lowering the cost of taxes. We are here to help with the process and are happy to do so.
We in the assessing office encourage every property owner to stop in to review their property records here at City Hall, have a chat with us, and ask any related questions that you may be concerned about. Marria and I have a constant goal to have the records as complete and current as possible in order to distribute the tax burden as fairly as we can. If we find discrepancies we are happy to verify any information provided and follow-up with visits as necessary. We are also working toward having all assessing records available online as soon as possible. Although there is much work to be done to make that occur, it has become a priority for the department and management.
Lewis Cousins is the assessor for the city of Presque Isle. He can be reached at 760-2714 or via email at email@example.com.