Paris residents want reassessments reassessed

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PARIS — One resident, who saw her property value and taxes almost double during the town’s reevaluation process, is calling on others to express their concern at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

Town officials, however, are advising those with grievances to make appointments for hearings with assessors from the company in charge of the process.

Terry Robinson, who owns the house and 10.74 acres at 9 Stearns Hill Road in Paris, said her property was valued at $76,100 before the reevalutaion. Now it’s $140,700.

Her last tax bill came in at $1,362.19 and the next one is expected to jump to $2,518.53.

“If it was another $205.85, it would have been doubled,” Robinson said Monday. “I was shocked. I thought it was a mistake. … I went from shock to anger to determination. It’s not just the amount. I suppose if the amount is correct then that’s it. It’s the fact that it’s not.”

As of Tuesday morning, Robinson and at least 109 others in town had made appointments to meet with four assessors next week to discuss the reevaluation.

“It all has to fit back into the end result (which) is supposed to be the market value of the house,” Town Assessor Jerry Samson said Tuesday. “Although the economy is slow now and the houses have been on the market a lot longer … it is turning around.”

There are roughly 3,000 accounts in Paris and of the 110 who made appointments, only one was a business owner, according to Samson.

Jennifer McMahon, owner of Riverside Lodge at 20 Paris Hill Road, is fighting the reevaluation of her business, as her property value and taxes jumped significantly after purchasing the sauna in February.
Jennifer McMahon, owner of Riverside Lodge at 20 Paris Hill Road, is fighting the reevaluation of her business, as her property value and taxes jumped significantly after purchasing the sauna in February.

Jennifer McMahon was the one commercial account who scheduled a hearing by Tuesday morning. She owns Riverside Lodge, formerly known as Dave’s Sauna at 20 Paris Hill Road. She purchased the business in February for $122,100, with a tax bill of $2,185. Now it’s valued at $213,000 with taxes around $3,800.

“If the town of Paris thinks they can sell this building for $213,000, more power to you. … There’s not a lot of integrity in that building. I am doing my best as a business owner to contribute to the business economy of South Paris,” she said Monday.

McMahon had a meeting late last week with Tom Smith of Summitt Energy Solutions, who estimated it would cost between $18,000 and $25,000 to get the building “operational and energy efficient.”

“Basically there’s not a stick of insulation in the building. That’s what he told me,” she said. “It had been on the market for over a year and they couldn’t even sell it at the asking price, which is nowhere close to the assessed value. … Within my business plan, I didn’t anticipate my taxes doubling.”

The reevaluation process began in August 2014 by RJD Appraisal of Pittsfield, which was paid $179,000 for its services. The assessment company’s employees came to Robinson’s house when she wasn’t home, she said.

“The town did the reassessments before so I didn’t really think about it … but I should have them come in and see the building isn’t that great,” she said, adding that it was built 62 years ago by her family who used materials they could afford and had basic maintenance over the years.

Others in her family saw estimated hikes in their property values and taxes, including her uncle Doug Robinson at 780 Paris Hill Road. His taxes increased by roughly $1,200 — from $2,664 to $3,850.

“When you’re living on Social Security and you’re living (on a fixed income), it kind of throws you over,” he said Monday.

Doug Robinson’s taxes have increased by $100 or $200 or so over the last three years he said, but never by such a large amount. He used to get a refund and other tax breaks that he no longer receives, he said. He planned to make an appointment with the assessors to see if he could get his figures lowered.

“I have paid property taxes on it for all these years. I would like to kind of pass it onto my kids so they can take it on. It looks like they might have to sell part of it just to hang onto the rest of it,” Doug Robinson said, noting he’s handicapped and can no longer work to supplement his income.

Even Selectman Janet Jamison made an appointment with the assessors, as her property value has increased to roughly $250,000 for her two houses and less than an acre of land on High Street.

“My taxes went up $433 between the two old houses and I am telling you, old tired and dumpy because the owner is old, tired and dumpy,” she said, laughing.

Jamison added she was the third person put on hold Monday morning when calling the Town Office to make an appointment.

The new assessment has had the town’s overall value increased by approximately $19 million, bringing it in the neighborhood of $355 million, Samson said.

That’s because Market Square Health Care Center is no longer tax exempt, roughly $4 million in new construction has occurred over the last few years and some areas in town were undervalued, he added.

Samson said roughly one-third of the accounts had their values increase, one-third decreased and the other third stayed the same. He hopes the current mill rate of $17.90 per $1,000 of assessed value will remain flat once the reevaluation process is complete.

“You can’t really tell until these hearings are through. They might find errors. They might change people’s values,” Samson said.

The town assessor added that mill rates usually drop when reevaluations are done, but the situation in Paris is unique. This is because before heading into the reevaluation, property in town was already valued at 100 percent but misallocated so two-thirds of the values and tax bills are anticipated to change.

“We’re doing a reevaluation because of the inaccuracy of the last reevaluation,” Samson said, adding that the last one was completed in 2007. “It was a value thing. A lot of people were undervalued and a lot of people were overvalued.”

The town assessor, who served between the previous assessor when the last reevaluation was done and Samson, had raised the red flag that the values were off, Samson said. There was controversy surrounding the last reevaluation and “the town didn’t want to raise the money at the time,” Samson said about paying to go through the process again.

There’s several factors assessors used when determining the value of a property, Samson said. They include sales prices in town for the past three years, which are plugged into a tax map, to figure out land values in different areas in town. For houses, they look at the age, if the building or buildings have depreciated, square footage and the cost of construction.

The selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, June 22, at the Town Office, 33 Market Square, but could change venues if a lot of people are anticipated to show up. Residents can call the Town Office at 743-2501 to speak with Samson to make an hearing appointment.

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