Taxpayer’s Introduction

The Board of Assessors are elected officials that serve a three year term. Currently, the Board of Assessors are Kevin Pond (Chair), David Pierce, and Bev Wheeler.

The Board of Assessors meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6:00PM in the evening, in the Assessors Office of the Municipal Building, 23 Linden Street, Berlin. Any exceptions for these meeting dates would be posted on the website.

NameTitle
Assessing DirectorMolly K. Reed, MAA
Administrative AssessorRose Pierce
Property ListerJoann Wynkoop

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Personal Property – Patriot Properties Lynn, MA.
  • Real Estate – Vision Government Solutions

Value Property

Assessors must value all real and personal property within their communities. They may perform work with their own staff or they may hire professional appraisal firms. By law, valuation is based on “fair cash value”, the amount a willing buyer would pay a willing seller on the open market.

The fair cash value standard protects the property owner’s constitutional rights to pay only his or her fair share of the tax burden. The valuations are used to allocate the taxes needed to fund each year’s budget among the community’s taxpayers.

Determining the “fair cash value” or “market value” of a property involves discovering what similar properties are selling for, what the property would cost today to replace and what financial factors may be affecting the real estate market. Valuation techniques for commercial and industrial properties include analysis from an investment point of view, since the purchase price the buyer is willing to pay depends in part on the return he expects to receive. Assessors are responsible for defending the valuations they have established.

Determine New Growth for the Levy Limit

Proposition 2 1/2 provides the town with annual increases in their levy limits of 2.5% plus “new growth”. New Growth is an additional amount based on the assessed value of new construction and other growth in the tax base that is not the result of property revaluation. Other growth may include the subdivision of vacant land, conversion of existing building to condominium ownership, new personal property accounts and the return of exempt properties to the tax rolls. Assessors are responsible for tracking and reporting each year’s growth.

Set the Tax Rate

Assessors fix the annual tax levy and tax rate each year for their town. They oversee the preparation of the tax rate recapitulation, commonly referred to as the “recap” sheet, which shows all the appropriations, state and county charges and other expenditures, all state and local revenues available to offset those expenditures, and the amount that must be levied (raised) in property taxes to have a balanced budget.

Commit the Property Taxes to the Tax Collector

Assessors prepare the valuation and commitment list each year, showing the name and address of the taxpayer with the value of his property and the amount of the tax. The assessor gives the commitment with the warrant to the tax collector, who is responsible for mailing out the bills and collecting the taxes.

Act on Abatements and Exemptions

Taxpayers have a right to file for an abatement of taxes once the tax bills have been mailed. Taxpayers can file if they believe their property is overassessed, is not assessed fairly in comparison to like properties, or if not classified correctly. If the assessors do not grant the desired abatement, the taxpayer can appeal the decision to the state Appelate Tax Board (ATB). More detailed information about this can be found on the property value page, or on the abatement form.

State law allows some taxpayers exemptions from their property tax bills. These exemptions are for taxpayers who meet specific criteria (the elderly, veterans, the blind, surviving spouses and the minor children of deceased parents who qualify). For persons to receive an exemption, however, they must apply at the assessor’s office within 90 days of the date that the tax bill is mailed, typically October 1. The assessors must grant an exemption if the applicant meets all of the qualifications of the law. The state reimburses the community for a portion of most of the exemptions.

Oversee Overlay

Assessors must establish a reserve to fund anticipated property tax abatements, uncollectable taxes, and exemptions when they set the tax rate. Assessors estimate the amount needed for that fiscal year. When there is excess overlay in a fiscal year and all tax obligations have been recovered, the Board of Assessors can “release” excess overlay for use in a subsequent fiscal year.

Commit Betterments

Special property taxes may be assessed to property owners to reimburse the town for all costs of septic improvements under the Septic Loan Program. These liens are recorded with the registry of deeds and a betterment is added to the tax commitment for the duration of the loan.

Assess and Administer Motor Vehicle and Boat Excise

Assessors have responsibility for motor vehicle and boat excise tax bills. Billing files for motor vehicles originate at the State Registry of Motor Vehicles, but communities issue the bills to the owners of registered vehicles garaged in the town. Assessors grant abatements and answer any questions regarding excise tax bills. They can assist taxpayers in resolving billing issues with the registry. Proper documentation will be required to receive an abatement. It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to pay the bill while resolving issues.

Farm Excise was abolished by vote of town meeting May 2009.