- Town Government
- Assessment Equalization
The Assessor’s Office maintains a database of every property’s value in the town and equalizes them, as needed, in order to distribute the tax burden equitably by ensuring all properties maintain an assessment that aligns with their current fair market value.
The Importance of Frequent Equalization:
- To apportion the property tax burden fairly, as required by the State constitution Article 9, Section 8.
- To keep tax bills predictable and manageable.
- To avoid expensive revaluations.
Equalization efforts ensure each property owner pays no more and no less than their fair share of the tax burden. This process does not raise any new revenue for the town; the Assessor has no authority over spending. The annual budget is voted on and set by the Town Council through an open process.
What is Market Value (a.k.a. Just Value)?
Market value is the most probable price a property would bring in an open and competitive market. It is established through buyer and seller transactions, which the Assessor analyzes and uses to estimate market value for all properties.
The Town conducted a revaluation in 2017; why do values need to be equalized?
The Assessor's Office is shortening the cycle that assessments are adjusted to market value. Prior to the 2017 revaluation, it had been 17 years since valuation tables were last adjusted. For a growing town like Brunswick, infrequent adjustment cycles create opportunity for inequities to grow and lead to large and unpredictable changes to property values. More frequent adjustments help keep property taxes equitable, predictable, and manageable.
Will taxes increase?
Not necessarily. An adjustment to your assessment does not mean that your taxes will automatically increase. If the increased assessment is less than the average increase, your taxes would decrease. For example, if your assessment increased by 10% and the average increase was 15%, your taxes would decrease as long as municipal budgets remain stable and the tax levies do not increase. If a property sees a large increase, it is most likely because the property has been undervalued or improvements have been made.
What's the difference between assessments and taxes?
Property owners often confuse assessments and taxes. For example, some taxpayers attempt to appeal their taxes. You can appeal the assessment but not the taxes. Assessments are determined by the Assessor and are required reflect fair market value. Taxes are determined by your municipal and county elected officials when they set spending budgets each fiscal year. The Assessor has no authority over spending and elected officials have no authority over assessments. If you believe your assessment is fair but your taxes are too high, you may wish to bring your concerns to your elected officials.
How much new revenue does the Town collect, as a result of increased assessments?
Many are surprised to learn the amount is $0. The annual budget, approved by our elected officials, calls for the amount needed to be raised by property taxes. The assessments distribute the tax burden equitably. The Town does not generate any additional tax dollars from the adjustment of values.
How does equalization benefit taxpayers?
The property tax burden is distributed based on property values. Without equalization efforts, some property owners would pay more than their fair share while others would pay less. It is important the tax burden is equitable to all taxpayers.
How can one tell if assessments are equitable?
There are two good methods of determining this. First, compare your property to similar properties that were sold within the last 12 months. Your value should be in line with these sale prices. Second, if no recent sales are available, compare your assessment to other similar properties in town. Remember, very few properties are exactly alike. Your value should be comparable, but seldom will be exactly the same as what appears to be a similar property.
Are there opportunities for taxpayers to be involved in the process?
Absolutely. While the Assessor is tasked with estimating the market value of each property, nobody knows the individual property better than the taxpayer. There may be instances where the Assessing Office reaches out for more information on a property, whether it be to confirm physical characteristics, obtain further information on a sale, verify property use, etc. Responding to those requests is the most important way a taxpayer can remain involved. Additionally taxpayers should:
- Ask questions.
- Pay attention to notices and other information distributed by the Assessor's Office.
- Address concerns with courtesy and respect.
What options are available to a taxpayer who disagrees with the value of their property?
Property values are available for taxpayers to review each year prior to commitment. Informal meetings are available, by calling the Assessor's Office, for a taxpayer to address concerns or questions before taxes are committed each September. A taxpayer should be well prepared with questions as well as any analysis and evidence to support their position should they disagree with the valuation. Once taxes are committed, taxpayers have 185 days to file a formal appeal should they continue to disagree with the value.
While we understand some may have concerns about affordability or the percent changes in tax or value amount, these are not sufficient grounds for an appeal. An appeal should be based on the estimated market value of the property. According to Maine law, a property's valuation is considered reasonable within 10% of its probable selling price.
Are there tax relief measures available?
The Town and the State offer a number of tax relief programs, including:
- Homestead Exemption
- Veteran Exemption
- Blind Exemption
- Renewable Energy Investment Exemption
- Senior Tax Reimbursement Program
- Property Tax Stabilization for Seniors
- Property Tax Deferral Program
- Current Land Use Programs
- Business Equipment Tax Exemption
- Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement
Detailed Information on all the above programs are available HERE.