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Scituate property-tax appeals expected to rise

Override helps fuel higher rate

Scituate assessors are expecting an increase in tax-abatement filings this year, as a townwide revaluation and an increase in the property tax rate produce higher bills.

According to the assessor’s office, abatement filings, or filings that occur due to disputes with the assessed value of one’s home and land, were down over the last two years.

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This year, however, after a field inspection of all the town’s parcels, the number of disputes may go up.

“Data [may have been] picked up that wasn’t on the existing field card,’’ Director of Assessing Stephen Jarzembowski said to selectmen recently. “It’s not because of a sale or a number of sales. People want to check the card to see their info is accurate. . . . it’s not a perfect science, there can be errors. We have thousands of homes, and we do what we can and use what we have to work with.’’

Overall, the average valuation for a single-family home in Scituate decreased to $478,000 from $487,000, Jarzembowski said. However, with last year’s Proposition 2 1/2 override, the tax rate rose significantly.

According to Jarzembowski, the tax rate was set at $12.34 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from $11.25 last year. Approximately 58 cents of that is override-related.

That, coupled with a few parcels of land around town with higher assessed value since the revaluation, has some residents concerned.

“I have just received my tax bill and was absolutely shocked to find’’ a huge increase in valuation, Barbara Griffin, a Beach Plum Lane resident, said in an e-mail. “My property taxes have increased $2,000.’’

In a later phone interview, Griffin said, “I don’t know how they get away with it. I am going to file an abatement, but I don’t know how [else] to fight this.’’

Griffin said others who live on the street, and who work for the town, have lower assessments.

Jarzembowski said the implication of improper actions is unfounded. “A third party does the value. They are a company that has 30 communities. They simply do a value based on data,’’ he said.

PK Valuations Group, based in Raynham and South Hadley, conducts the valuations of numerous communities south of Boston, including Weymouth, Bridgewater, Duxbury, Carver, Plympton, and a slew of Cape towns. It was chosen by Scituate for this revaluation because of its knowledge of waterfront property valuation, he said.

Taxpayers who disagree with their assessments can file abatement claims.

“There are 9,000 parcels; sometimes data errors have to be corrected. But nothing is stagnant, it’s always changing. Whether building permits were filed or not . . . we find things that affect value, and if it’s wrong we change it,’’ Jarzembowski said.

According to the assessor’s website, abatement applications can be made until Feb. 1. Applications can be picked up in the assessor’s office, and taxes must be paid pending an appeal.

The Board of Assessors reviews all abatement applications. If an application is denied, residents may appeal to the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board within 90 days of the assessors’ decision.

As of early last week, fewer than 10 abatement applications had been made to the town. But it had only been a week since residents received their tax bills for this year, so it’s hard to predict how many will be coming, Jarzembowski said.

In the meantime, residents such as Griffin are cursing the override and its effects.

“If the residents of Scituate knew their properties were going to be reassessed, I don’t think Prop 2 1/2 would have passed,’’ she said.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.com.
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