The Wendell Board of Assessors, with the support of the Select Board and Finance Committee, has decided to enter into a three-year contract with Regional Resource Group (RRG) for comprehensive assessing services. A multi-year contract with RRG is a good way to control Wendell's assessing costs while providing excellent assessing services to the town. This will also save money by eliminating the need for hiring and training an Administrative Assessor and for costly consultants.
RRG will act as the chief assessor - managing the office, conducting in-house reassessments, handling both local and appellate tax appeals, tending to administrative tasks, and daily interacting with taxpayers on valuation and tax matters. RRG brings a team of highly qualified assessment professionals including a credentialed lead assessor, mass appraisers, property listers, and specialists in areas ranging from personal property valuation to chapter land administration, GIS support, and solar PILOT negotiations.
Working with RRG offers considerable budget savings, while raising office efficiency and professionalism, and providing an increased level of services.
In recent years we have been hearing from property owners concerned about increasing tax bills. It is true that tax bills have increased significantly over the last ten years. A large part of this increase is due to the increase in the Town's budget, which has been greatly affected by the increase in our school-age population.
The Town pays a percentage of the schools' budgets based on Wendell's portion of the total student population, averaged over a couple of years. This has contributed to the increase in the tax rate, which has gone from $16.77 in 2010 to the current rate of $24.54.
In addition to these budget increases, tax assessments on many properties have gone up. We have found the majority of properties we visited in the last few years were undervalued and properties are consistently selling for more than their assessed value. State law requires we value properties at fair market value, and two years ago the Assessors set a goal to assess every property within three years (as opposed to the state-required nine years).
Although we have been working very hard, visiting a record number of properties last year, we have not been able to get to as many as we had hoped and many properties are still undervalued. This is in part because of COVID but also because of the time and care that we put into assessing each property, going over the changes, and making sure that each property is in line with the community as a whole.
Due to the challenge of finding qualified and experienced staff, the elected Assessors have been doing all of the actual assessing, including site visits. Hiring RRG will not only relieve the stress this has placed on our Board, but it will also speed up the process of evaluating all properties.
As we have been doing this work, a few properties have increased significantly in value due to a number of compounding issues. However, the majority of increases are simply because the properties were undervalued in comparison to fair market value, and to properties that have been assessed more recently.
As these increases have been happening over the last few years, it has shifted the burden of taxation. While we understand this is painful on the individual level, it is necessary in order to spread the tax burden equitably across the town. The properties in town that have been accurately assessed have been carrying an unfair burden of taxation for many years because so many properties were undervalued. By increasing the value of the undervalued properties, we are redistributing this burden equitably.
The valuation of the town is a very important part of the town's financial situation. Over the past ten years the gap between our budget and our levy ceiling has been steadily shrinking. When there is no longer a gap, the Town will be left with few options other than to drastically cut services. An increase in the total valuation of the Town helps to maintain this gap.
Our hope is that the work we have been doing - work that RRG will continue at a much faster pace - will result in a lower tax rate (assuming no large increase to the town budget), and a little more eroom between what the town needs to raise and appropriate and the levy ceiling.
We look forward to working with the folks at RRG and welcome their extensive assessing experience to the Town of Wendell. All property owners should look for a letter from our office which will detail changes in procedures for the Assessors office and provide contact information for RRG staff. As a Board we remain committed to fairly and equitably assessing all property in town and maintaining a high level of services and attention to detail.
Anna Seeger, Chair
Wendell Board Of Assessors