Property values average 14 percent above sales prices

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer

    GUILFORD — Average home sale prices have consistently sold below assessed values since the town’s property revaluation in 2007. Last year, assessed property values were 14 percent above sales figures. The selectmen are looking to re-examine how properties are assessed to bring values more inline with sales figures.

    The selectmen plan to expand the role of an assessor’s agent  — who already advises them in assessing new and split properties — in achieving their objective. Danielle Smith has advised the board in recent years with assessing new and split properties. The board decided on April 2 to request her to further assist them in evaluating how all town property valuations are determined.
    The selectmen considered implementing a 10 percent reduction across the board in property valuations before deciding on pursuing a different course. The board felt an arbitrary reduction would more likely magnify the problem, instead of resolving it. Property sales figures have varied widely, according to town officials, the belief is a 10 percent reduction wouldn’t be distributed evenly over the tax base.
    “At 14 percent you’re too far off. We know an adjustment needs to be made,” said Town Manager Tom Goulette. “It just wouldn’t work to make an across-the-board cut. There is a lot of variance in the sales figures. Some people are dropping their prices far below market value due to the economy. While others are selling above market value.”
    The selectmen plan on reviewing sales ratio figures over the next two years with Smith. As the town’s property assessors, the selectmen plan on implementing new methods in  assessing properties in 2015.
    In other action, the board announced that the Guilford Memorial Library is the recipient of two recent monetary contributions. A New York resident made a $20,000 bequest to the library. Ruth Goldstine, who spent her summers on Piper Pond in Abbot, made the library a benefactor in her will. She was described by library officials as a “faithful patron” over the years.
    The second contribution came in the form of a $25,000 grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. The library trustees plan on using the grant to expand the library’s basement for additional space and programming.
    The selectmen also have decided to change past practices concerning how two fire department bank accounts are managed. Fire department officials have placed donations and other contributions directly into checking and savings accounts for several years. Those accounts were recently moved into the same bank where the town keeps their municipal accounts.
    The town auditor has recommended that the two banks accounts be placed under municipal control rather than the department’s. The selectmen have adopted the recommendation so all future transactions on fire department generated revenues will require the town treasurer to sign the checks.
    The town also has a new sexton. The selectmen awarded the cemetery maintenance contract and sexton’s duties to Knowlescape of Abbot. The firm was the only bidder on the project. Knowlescape bid $12,000 for the one-year contract. Knowlescape owner Jody Knowles will assume the sexton’s position.
    The board will meet next at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7 in the municipal building.

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