City hearing gripes about revaluations

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LEWISTON – Heather Skolfield walked out of the Lewiston Armory Wednesday afternoon satisfied, but not any happier.

“I’m certainly not happy to be paying what I have to pay, but at least I understand it now,” she said. “They explained it. They had an answer for every question I had.”

Skolfield was among the 100 taxpayers who trooped through the armory Wednesday to meet with assessors and get more information about property taxes and the city’s recent revaluation.

Tax Assessor Joe Grube expects to see about 100 people a day for the next week, he said. The informal meetings are scheduled to continue for at least three weeks.

Notices showing tax increases for five of every six residential properties were mailed out last week. Overall, values for residential properties are up 108 percent. Values for the city as a whole – including residential and commercial land – increased by 62 percent.

The city should close the books on the revaluation by July. Taxpayers will see the new values in September when tax bills are mailed.

Skolfield said she bought her 20 Valley St. home six months ago and was surprised that her new valuation came in higher than what she paid.

“The assessor said property values are increasing an average of 1.5 percent a month right now, so that makes sense,” Skolfield said.

But she plans to make sure.

“The first thing I’m going to do is call my Realtor,” she said.

Lucien Soucy was much more skeptical. Speaking for his aunt, Lucy Belanger, Soucy said they would hire their own appraiser to prove the city wrong. Values on his aunt’s house rose from $66,000 last year to $125,900.

“It’s simply overappraised, by about 30 or 40 percent,” Soucy said. “I’d be surprised if it’s worth $80,000. This is a small home, four rooms and bath, built in the ’50s with no improvements. There’s just no way it’s worth what they say it is.”

It will be the undoing of Lewiston’s municipal government, Soucy said. He hopes taxpayers get mad enough to unseat all of the elected officials.

“I hope they just descend on these son-of-a-guns and get them,” Soucy said.

Ron Childs, of 50 Vale St., said assessors promised to take another look at his property, possibly in July. He doubts his revaluation is correct. It nearly doubled from $58,900 to $106,300.

“I didn’t learn anything today, and I don’t really feel any better about any of it,” Childs said. “But I didn’t come here expecting anything, anyway.”

Councilors are scheduled to meet again at 6 tonight to discuss the city’s budget and the proposed $40.6 million in property taxes to fund it. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.


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