County slaps Waterford for its assessing practices

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WATERFORD – The town better shape up its tax situation, according to a letter sent to Waterford officials by the Oxford County commissioners.

Commissioners recently granted a tax abatement in favor of the owners of the Bear Mountain Inn, Lorraine Blais and Rickie Hall, who claimed their taxes were assessed unfairly. The Dec. 19 decision was finalized and signed this week.

“During the course of our hearings, questioning and discovery, it became readily apparent to all of the commissioners on the board that property tax valuations in the town of Waterford bordered not only on arbitrary, but also illegal,” the letter by former Commissioner Jeffrey Fagan stated.

An architect of the tax policy, Selectman Whizzer Wheeler, did not immediately return phone calls for comment Thursday.

Selectmen are expected to discuss the abatement at their meeting Thursday night.

Waterford tacks on an additional 25 percent to business’ property taxes, a practice many individuals have questioned. The county said the added business tax was illegal and determined that the inn owners should not have to pay this tax, and encouraged others to file for abatements.

While the county commissioners do not have the power to change property valuations, commissioners suggested that “the town of Waterford consider rectifying the inequities in the valuation of property within your town.”

Fagan, along with current commissioners David Duguay and Steven Merrill recommended the town hire a professional assessor to do so.

Commissioners stated that, under the current tax system, they expected to see many more abatements coming from the town.

“This will have an impact not only on your tax collection and municipal budget, but may also continue to create divisiveness within your community,” the letter stated. “In the event that further abatements come across the desk of our board, the town of Waterford might expect a similar outcome to the Bear Mountain Inn case.”

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