JAY – Assessing agents have visited hundreds of properties in town and screened more than 250 property sales to develop a new schedule of values for land and buildings.

All properties have increased in value since 1996 when the last revaluation was conducted by John O’Donnell & Associates of New Gloucester, Jay’s assessing agent, Paul Binette, said Tuesday.

For example, the average acre, a base lot in Jay, was assessed in 1996 at $10,000 and this year, the firm finds that $14,000 is a more appropriate reflection of today’s fair market value, Binette said.

A decade ago, it was reasonable to pay $65,000 to $75,000 for an average ranch on an acre of land, he said. Today that may cost more than $110,000, he added.

The firm handles residential and commercial property assessments in Jay while Corporate Valuations of Oregon does the industrial appraisals.

The revaluation, except for industrial property, has been completed and the new values are getting a final review before a notice is sent to taxpayers on Aug. 11.

Taxpayers with questions or concerns about values can call the town office and set up an appointment to meet with assessing agents on Aug. 18, 21, 22 or 23.

What will be missing from the valuation notices will be an estimate of tax assessments, which hinges on the disputed value of the cogeneration plant formerly owned by Androscoggin Energy LLC.

The plant’s value – it’s the town’s second largest tax account – is in flux, Town Manager Ruth Marden said Tuesday.

“Until we know what the value is, we’re unable to estimate a tax rate,” she said.

The town values the natural-gas-fired power plant at more than $100 million. Power plant officials claim the plant and personal property should be valued at $10 million for 2004-05 and 2005-06.

Binette said plant construction costs in 1997 exceeded $125 million, yet the newest taxpayer list submitted by plant officials as of April 1 claims the plant, equipment and machinery are valued at $5 million.

Jay’s industrial assessors and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court are in the process of reviewing the valuation.

Any decrease in value of the cogeneration plant will be shouldered by the taxpayers, Binette said.

In 2005-06, 72 percent of the total value of the town, which is about $1 billion, was industrial based, Marden said.

The equalization of Jay properties is needed also because the town doesn’t have a building permit system and instead uses an honor system that has been quite effective, Binette said.

“We didn’t find as many assessment disparities as one would expect in a town of this size,” he said. “We find that most Jay taxpayers are earnest when filling out their taxpayer’s list.”

A 3-inch binder of property sales containing more than 250 property sales that were screened to develop the schedules and property maps are available for residents to view at the town office.

The binder contains a listing of every arms-length sale – a sale without special circumstances such as bankruptcy, foreclosure or family. Each listing includes a color photo of the property, acreage, sale date and price and new land and building values.

Binette pointed out a hip roof ranch on 12 acres that sold in October 2004 for $140,000.

“It was previously assessed well below that,” he said.

Marden said she is confident with the work O’Donnell & Associates have done.

“My background is in assessing and I’ve seen them doing all the right things and I believe we’re going to have a product that is fair and equitable to every taxpayer,” she said.

Marden stressed that if people have concerns they really need to make a phone call to set up an appointment to bring those concerns forward.

“I know there have been a lot of municipalities that have seen a lot of disruptions but I’m not anticipating that in Jay,” Marden said.

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