Camden’s mil rate increases but slightly this year; real estate market trends hot

Tue, 09/03/2019 - 8:45pm

CAMDEN — Since 2017, houses and property in Camden have been selling at a fast clip, and at ever-increasing prices. Accordingly, those higher prices have affected the overall valuation of the town of Camden, and over the last year, the taxable value of real estate increased by approximately $45 million, $39 million of that attributed to market growth.

As of September, the town’s total valuation is a little more than $1.34 billion.

In general, houses over the past two years have been selling 16 percent more than there assessed value, said Camden’s assessor, Kerry Leichtman.

That means that their assessed value as recorded by the town was at 84 percent of their sales value.

Just two years ago, in 2017, Camden underwent a revaluation of property in town. After that revaluation, the ratio of assessment rates to sales price hovered around 97 percent, a rate that is comfortable for assessors.

Every August, the town assessor sets the mill rate, against which property taxes are levied to cover the costs of the municipal, county and school budgets that voters approved at annual town meeting in June. In calculating the mill rate, the revenue needed to be raised to cover the three budgets is divided by the total local assessed valuation to get the local tax rate. 

The mill rate is the dollars /cents per $1,000 of value that a property owner will pay in property taxes. For example, if a home is valued at $100,000 and the tax rate is 20 mills, then the tax bill will be $2,000 (or $20 x 100).

Setting the mill rate includes taking into account increases and decreases in valuation, which is based on real estate sales, and new property construction and improvements. This past year, the hot real estate market and selling prices far outstripped new property construction and general economic development in Camden.

Leichtman said he anticipated that the energetic real estate market might continue to grow, and at the same time,  the specter of an economic recession hovers on the horizon.

Consequently, he has been adjusting his own cost tables to reflect one trend and cognizant of another.

“I didn’t want to cause pain, and there is also a good chance that a recession is coming,” he said.

This year, Camden’s mill rate has been set at $14.91 per $1,000 of valuation, up .2 of 1 percent, said Leichtman.

Last year, the mil rate was set at $14.88 per $1,000 of valuation. In 2017, it had been set at $14.38.

Property tax bills for 2019-2020 will be circulating before long, Leichtman said, in a memo (below) that he submitted to Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell.

Camden’s municipal budget is $9.7 million, of which $6 million rests on the property owner’s shoulders. Additionally, the property owners must help pay for a $12.9 million high school budget, a $16.9 million Camden-Rockport K-8 budget, and a share of the $11 million Knox County budget.

As for Rockport’s mil rate, citizens there will just have to wait while the software system, which was recently updated, gets a command set straight, said Leichtman.

He said, however, that Rockport has not sustained the increase in real estate sales prices that Camden has. In fact, the town, which underwent a property revaluation in 2015, has indicated no major changes after four years. Eastward on the Ocean, a subdivision near Glen Cove with high end homes, was the only area of town that saw disparity between assessed valuation and real estate sales price increases.



To: Audra Caler-Bell, Town Manager From: Kerry Leichtman, Assessor
RE: 2019 commitment
Date: 8/30/19


Commitment is in progress as I write this. I won’t know when tax bills will go out until the process concludes, but I wanted to update you on where we are.

Camden’s taxable value in real estate grew by $45,277,284 from April 1, 2018 to April 1, 2019. Of this, $6.2 million is attributed to new construction and parcel splits, and $39 million is attributed to market growth.

The market growth is captured by making appropriate adjustments to the cost tables in our assessing software system. Camden’s overall ratio after the revaluation two years ago was 97%. Before my adjustments that ratio had fallen to 85%. This represents market growth at a 6% per annum rate. Adjusted, our April 1, 2019 overall ratio is now 95%.

In 2017, it had been 13 years since our previous revaluation. No adjustments were made in the intervening years. As a result of this 13-year lapse, the 2017 reval captured $167 million in market growth and many taxpayers suffered sticker shock at their individual new values. To counter this, I promised to make adjustments up and down as dictated by clearly established market trends. After two years of 6% growth I made the first adjustments this year.

With $39 million in new value, the mil rate increase was limited to 3 cents per $1,000 in value, or $14.91, a rise of two-tenth of 1 percent (0.2%), from 2018’s $14.88. This despite a rise of $530,891 (4.54%) in the schools’ appropriation. The county appropriation increase was a more modest $42,327 (3.13%), with Camden’s appropriation, after subtracting revenue sharing and non-property tax revenues, rising only 1.46%, or $88,856.

We’ve been having an inordinate amount of trouble with Trio this year. Trio’s phone lines have been down for over a week and their email response times are so far below acceptable parameters I don’t know what words to use to describe their inexcusable inability to provide adequate customer support. I will let you know a tax bill mailing date as soon as possible.

Thank you, Kerry