FARMINGTON — Selectmen voted unanimously to side with “fairness for all taxpayers” Tuesday by eliminating property tax assessments for road frontage that only some taxpayers have been charged.

The approximately 1,700 out of 3,300 property owners who have been assessed for road frontage amounts to $3.1 million in property valuation or $47,000 in tax revenue for the frontage revenue alone, town assessor Mark Caldwell told the board.

The board had asked Caldwell to research the practice of assessing for road frontage after Fairbanks Road property owner Michael Deschenes raised the question of fairness with the board last month. He was granted an abatement on his property tax assessment after researching properties around town similar to his own.

His research involved looking at road-frontage assessments on other properties from a section of Fairbanks Road where some with large road frontage were not charged or charged at a lower rate than some with smaller properties.

Debating whether to wait for a town revaluation to undertake a change and adjust for the loss of tax dollars, Selectman Nancy Porter voiced concern for the fairness to those paying road frontage.

“Seems like we’ve missed something along the way,” she said, as she questioned why the assessor continued the practice of assessing for road frontage after he reported other towns had dropped the practice.

“It never came up,” he said of educational opportunities to learn that other towns had changed.

In his report, Caldwell told the board he would prefer “to stop using road frontage as part of the assessment calculations as many communities already have. However I don’t think this is the year to do it. We would be better served to include this change with a full revaluation which we should undertake in the next year or two.”

The town has not had a revaluation done since 1991 while many communities undertake one about every 10 years.

After Selectman Jon Bubier suggested making the change over a three-year period as it “seems to be applied unfairly,” Town Manager Richard Davis suggested the town should “bite the bullet and do it all at once.”

To counter the loss of tax dollars, the effect on the tax rate for 2010 would be about 12 cents higher. This year’s tax rate is expected to go up 70 cents from $15.30 to $16 per $1,000 property evaluation due to a loss of revenues, but with the road frontage change, the rate would be $16.12, he said.

The board agreed that road-frontage assessments should be applied either for all or none and asked Caldwell to make the changes in time for the 2010 tax bills.

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