A special town meeting vote to set aside $200,000 for a revaluation of properties in Dresden ended in a 28-28 tie, causing the question to fail, on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Since a few voters left after casting their secret ballot and before the tally was completed, another vote could not be taken, according to moderator Jeff Pierce. Another special town meeting will be scheduled in the future to consider the same question.
Town Administrator Daniel Swain said Dresden has never had a revaluation and much of the property data the town has is incomplete or incorrect. He said the town plans to hire a professional assessing firm to visit each of the more than 1,400 properties, measure all buildings, record conditions, and update property cards with changes.
Had the special town meeting question been approved, the town would have the authority to spend up to $200,000 from its undesignated fund balance, or surplus, to hire a firm to perform the revaluation over a two-year span. A request for proposals would be issued and companies would submit sealed bids for the work.
Once the assessment of properties is complete, the new updated information is entered into the town office’s assessing program, TRIO, which is able to accurately assess the value of properties based on market values determined by the state.
“Everybody is being taxed for what they have, which is what you want,” Swain said of the result of a revaluation. “You don’t want to be taxed for something you don’t have.”
After more than an hour of discussion, much of it centered around concerns about property taxes going up as a result of the revaluation, resident Neal Amirault said the only taxes that will go up are on properties that have not been properly assessed and are not up-to-date. He added that concerns about taxes should be expressed at annual town meeting when the budget is voted on.
“If you’re worried about your taxes going up, it’s because you’ve done a lot of stuff on your property and haven’t told anybody or you’re voting for everything at town meeting,” Amirault said. “This is just, to me, making life fair for everyone.”
The town’s assessment ratio, which considers a property’s assessed value as compared to its market value, is below the percentage threshold required by the state. The state can issue fewer education funds and lower the value of homestead exemptions if the town’s property records and assessed values are not accurate, Swain said.
Last year, all homestead exemptions for property owners in Dresden were valued at $21,750 instead of $25,000 because of the town’s skewed assessment ratio, Swain said.
Swain said that many of the property records in town are so out-of-date that the assessing firm will essentially have to start from “square one” in evaluating parcels.
Resident Jonathan Doray and other residents asked if the revaluation would automatically raise taxes. Doray expressed concern over “a housing bubble” and inflated real estate prices.
“Everybody knows the housing market is going to crash,” Doray said.
Swain said the revaluation will raise taxes for some people who may have more value in their property, in the form of additions, than when it was purchased.
Resident Justin Andrus spoke in favor of the revaluation, saying that all the housing values in town have increased in the past two years and they will decrease together as well when prices calm, putting property owners on a level playing field.
He said that the revaluation will “not change the amount of tax collected,” and the mil rate will actually decrease because of the anticipated increase in assessed property values in town, unless the budget increases by a proportional amount.
“This will change the proportions in which we pay our taxes. The amount of tax collected is going to be set by the town budget, it’s going to be set by our vote at annual town meeting,” Andrus said.
The Dresden Select Board will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6 to set the town’s mil rate. Swain said he may bring up the question of a new special town meeting at that time and the select board can then set a date that is as yet undetermined.