How Property Values Are Assessed

Below you will find some commonly asked questions and answers.

Our tax year is July 1 to June 30.  Taxes are due in two payments, the first Wednesday in October, and the first Wednesday in April.  Interest begins to accrue the day after the due date.  The interest rate is set by the state.  When a payment is 8 – 12 months past due, a lien is filed at the Penobscot Registry of Deeds.  Lien fees and certified mail fees are then added to the amount due.  It will foreclose 18 months after the due date.

Personal property taxes are assessed to businesses on their furnishings, fixtures, machinery, equipment, telecommunications, computers, unregistered trailers (semis, tanks, flat beds), tractors, and other heavy equipment.

When the assessor or an assistant does an interior inspection, we look at the unfinished areas in the basement and attic, to determine the quality of materials and workmanship as well as the heating system.  We also look at the materials used throughout the house for floor cover, countertops, cupboards, windows, doors, etc.  Sometimes we have to look at a project under construction on or about April 1 to determine the percent of completion.  The taxes will be based only on the amount completed by April 1 for the tax bill that year.  Also, if a house (or portion thereof) was demolished after April 1, the tax bill would still include the property as it was on April 1.  On the other hand, if you build a house, addition, garage, shed, etc. after April 1, it will not be assessed until the following April 1.


1. What steps/process do we follow to prepare property taxes: i.e., sequence in this process?

As properties sell, we get new deeds then copies of transfer tax forms with the sale price listed.  These are entered into our assessing program “TRIO”.  Once all sales through April 1st are received and entered, we can begin our “Sales Studies”.  This tells us what neighborhoods are selling above or below our assessed values.  Because the state law requires our assessments be at or near 100% we must raise or lower the neighborhood factors to accomplish this.  All assessments are based on April 1 data.


2.   What is the basic formula used to determine property assessments?  What factors make up this formula; i.e., square footage, acreage, etc.?

Land value is based on acreage.  The first portion, called the improved site, is always the most valuable.  Next is additional road frontage then the rear land, or extra acreage.  Buildings are basically assessed by square foot; then extras added such as extra bathrooms, fireplaces, etc.  To all this information a grade and factor is applied and a condition which affects the depreciation. 


3.  How do the mil rate, assessment value, special assessments & other adjustments affect the final tax on property? What are these (define)?

The total budget (school, county, municipal) is divided by the total town assessment to determine a mil rate.  The assessor has no control over the mil rate.  The valuation is the assessor’s job; the budget is the Council’s job.  The “special assessments” such as tree growth, farmland and open space” are all added into the final valuation figures.


4.  What are exemptions?  How many are there?  How do these affect the amount of tax on a property?  What must a taxpayer do to apply/qualify for these exemptions?

Residential owners must apply for the homestead exemption each time they move.  You qualify for this by living in and owning your main residence for one year on April 1.  This exemption takes $25,000 off the value.  You may also receive a veteran’s exemption ($6,000 value) if you have reached the age of 62 and served in the military during one of the federally recognized war periods.  You need fill out a form and provide your DD214 and a birth certificate.  Veterans who are not 62 but are 100% disabled from military service may also receive this exemption and must supply us with a letter showing a type 2 or type 3 disability.  All these forms must be received by the assessor on or before April 1.


5.  What mandates, regulations, etc. (local, county, state, federal) are factors when determining property taxes?  Example:  state refunds, paybacks/offsets, etc?

None.  Valuations are governed by state law only.  State refunds are separate and must be applied for by the tax payer, but we usually have those forms in the town office.


6.  How often are revaluation assessments done & where (i.e. throughout community, in sections of tax map, by zone/land use category)?

Our last equalization was implemented in 1992.  This value is updated each year by sales studies – see #1.  Waterfront sales are not used to determine non-waterfront assessments.  Farmland (registered) values are suggested by the state.  Tree Growth values are updated each year by the state, for each county.  The sales studies are not applied to these values. 


7.  Is there a difference between residential & commercial tax rates?  How determined?  How does the percentage relationship of residential to commercial properties change the tax base of the community?

There is no difference between the mil rate for residential and commercial.  The commercial assessments, once again, are determined by sales studies.  We also subscribe to the “Marshal & Swift Valuation Service” which suggests current values for all kinds of business/commercial buildings.  Business/commercial  properties are usually more valuable than residential but pay taxes using the same mil rate.


8.  How does the school district budget influence property taxes?  Explain state requirements.  Offsets?  Matching paybacks?  How is percent back to community determined by the state?  How did this affect Hampden’s taxes/tax base? Valuations?

The town has no control over school or county budgets.  This is mostly a question for the RSU22 board.  There is a statement on each tax bill that states the amount of your tax appropriated to town, school, and county.


9.  What does the town tax map tell us?

Tax maps show us the approximate boundary lines of properties.  They do not take the place of a survey.  The tax map info is used only for assessing purposes.


10. What do my taxes go to pay for/provide for me?

Salaries, buildings, maintenance, utilities, supplies, equipment, police, fire, ambulance protection, street lights, solid waste, postage, professional services (attorney), fuel, recreation areas maintenance, cemetery maintenance, library, pool, marina, bus, general assistance, economic development, and elections.


11.  How to read & understand the property tax bill (i.e., hard copy & on website – what do all those numbers & codes mean)?  The tax bills are public record, correct.

Tax bill info and records are public information.  Map/Lot identifies properties on the tax map.  Account # are locators for the computer info, book/page indicates the recorded deed at the Penobscot Registrar of Deeds.  Other codes on the web page for our data refer to property descriptions, i.e. number of stories, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, heat type, foundation type, full basement or not, roof surface of the house, outside house cover (vinyl) number of dwelling units, building style, outbuildings (garage, shed, pool) (See property card).


12. How does a taxpayer file questions or challenge a bill?  What penalties apply for non-payment or late payment?  When are payments due & how often?  Where can a taxpayer go for more info/help?

Tax payers should ask to see a copy of their property card.  If a tax payer has a question regarding their property, they should schedule an appointment to meet with the assessor.  If the tax payer desires changes, the assessor may want to perform an interior inspection to verify card information and information presented by the tax payer.  If the tax payer wishes to challenge an assessment, they should first meet with the assessor.  If they are not satisfied with the assessor’s decision, they can submit a written application for abatement.  When the assessor denies a request, the tax payer has 60 days to submit a written application to the Board of Assessment Review.  A meeting will be scheduled and the applicant(s) must appear and state their case.  The assessor will also be there to explain how the assessment was determined.  However, the burden of proof is on the tax payer to show that the property is not assessed correctly.  If either the applicant, or the assessor, is not happy with the decision, either one may apply to superior court, according to the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 80B.