Price appeals town assessment in superior court
KITTERY POINT, Maine — Randy Price, a veteran Boston TV news anchorman and longtime Kittery resident, said he and his husband are “unbelievably outraged” at a 43 percent increase in their property taxes — and they are appealing the town’s assessment to York County Superior Court.
Price, currently a WCVB-TV morning anchorman, and Mark Steffen sent a three-page letter Thursday to Town Manager Nancy Colbert Puff and all town councilors expressing concern over a tax increase that they said “defies logic.”
The letter was sent so that councilors would have it in advance of Monday’s Town Council meeting.
Price said he and Steffen, who live on Tower Road on Gerrish Island, are “not whining. We’re not asking a favor (of the town). We don’t expect to pay low taxes. We’re just asking to be taxed at the same level as at least comparable properties.”
Price and Steffen bought the house for $1.3 million in 2012, according to York County Register of Deeds documents. The house is currently assessed at $1.2 million, up from $845,000 in 2012.
“The assessor said, ‘Well, your assessment is under what you paid, so you have no grounds,'” Price said. “Not true. I’m arguing that we should have the same treatment as (comparable properties) in terms of our taxes, and we don’t.”
Colbert Puff said she could not comment on specific properties, although she said Price has been to see her several times. She said Town Assessor Bruce Kerns showed her documentation from the state of Maine indicating that the town “has done a good job at assessing values,” specifically waterfront values.
Price disagreed. He said he and Steffen searched the town’s assessment database for coastal properties in Kittery, which “reveals something more alarming to us than trying to make sense of a 43 percent tax increase,” they wrote to councilors.
What he said they found was that the assessed value of many coastal properties did not comparably increase in value. In fact, he said, they found many remained unchanged during a town-wide revaluation in 2013.
“One of those waterfront homes purchased during the revaluation period is now assessed at half the value of what the new owners have invested,” they wrote to the council.
While his ranch house sits on just over half an acre of land, some of the properties they researched had much larger homes and much more property, he said.
He said, for instance, they found a waterfront property that sold recently for $2.2 million, yet its assessed value is $1 million — “so they’re being taxed at 50 percent of the market value of their property.”
“And there are many other similar examples,” Price said.
He and Steffen appealed their assessment to the Kittery Board of Assessment Review, along with several neighbors who he said also saw increases — though none as high as Price and Steffen’s.
He said last week they received a letter from the board stating that it had denied their request for a reduction of their property taxes. While neighbors do not want to take on the expense of a court appeal, Price and Steffen are ready to fight the town legally.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” he said.
Colbert Puff said other than Price and one of his neighbors, she has not heard from other residents in town.
Because Town Councilor Chuck Denault brought up the revaluation issue at a recent council meeting, Kerns and the council will be holding a public workshop to describe the process at 6 p.m. July 14, Colbert Puff said.
“It will be a sort of property assessment 101,” she said.
Asked if he thought people might perceive him as a well-to-do person complaining about others who are well off, Price said, “When the system is out of whack, it’s probably out of whack other places, too.
“Everyone should be asking the question: What do you think about your property taxes?” he said.
The Kittery Tax Accessor Bruce Kerns and the Kittery Town Council will be holding a public workshop to describe the process at 6 p.m. July 14, 2014.
According the The Town Manager, “It will be a sort of property assessment 101” process.