City reval felt at home

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LEWISTON – Commercial property, mobile homes and eight-unit apartment buildings win under a new citywide property revaluation.

Single-family homes, duplexes and condominiums lose, thanks to a shift in property-tax burden.

“That’s the market,” City Administrator Jim Bennett said Friday. “Residential properties pay more, business pays less.”

Bennett released more details of the city’s $2.3 billion revaluation Friday morning, hours before the first new property value notices were to be mailed to Lewiston taxpayers.

The notices will show tax increases for five of every six residential properties. Overall, values for residential properties are up 108 percent. Meanwhile, values for the city as a whole – including residential and commercial land – increased by 62 percent.

“It’s no secret for anybody that’s been following this discussion all along,” Bennett said Friday. “If you had a home valued at $50,000 and now it’s valued at $100,000 to $130,000, your taxes are going up.”

But the city’s tax rate isn’t increasing, according to Bennett. As it stands, the total property-tax collection is expected to be $40.6 million. Considering new commercial and real estate development, that’s the same amount the city collected last year.

Last year’s tax rate was $27.35 for every $1,000 of value.

The proposed new rate, based on the revaluation, would be $17.20.

But the tax rate doesn’t really mean anything, Bennett said. “All people care about is that they have to write a check.”

City officials are girding for the fallout.

“There is going to be a lot of emotion, a lot of people who are upset and sad,” Bennett said.

Revaluation information went up on the city’s Web site, ci.lewiston.me.us, Friday afternoon. It will be tied to the city’s Geographic Information Systems, letting taxpayers see assessing data for their property – old property values, new values and estimated increases in their tax bills.

Assessment notices, including estimated tax bills, were being mailed Friday night, and could begin arriving in mailboxes by Saturday.

“Our goal is to have them in people’s hands by Tuesday, at the latest,” Bennett said. Councilors are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and Bennett is expecting a crowd.

Assessors will begin meeting with taxpayers to review their assessments on Wednesday. They’ve dedicated a telephone extension at City Hall to take phone calls and requests for hearings. The number is 784-2956, ext. 531. It will be an automated system running 24 hours a day and the city has devoted 10 telephone lines.

The notices are not perfect, Bennett said.

“We know there are mistakes,” he said. “If we waited a week or two, we could probably get all the bugs worked out. But then we’d take people out of the budget discussions. And people need to know this information so they can really understand what is happening with the budget.”

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