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Malta residents challenge assessments

After putting off a townwide reassessment two years ago in Malta to let an unprecedented building boom unfold, the rural town's overall assessment fell 22 percent below market value.

In those two years, town assessors, along with outside contractors, conducted an extensive review of the town's assessed value. They sent out the new assessments to taxpayers earlier this month.

Now at 100 percent of fair market value, Malta's total value has increased by $500 million, and, in some cases, people are seeing 100 percent assessment increases on their homes.

We've added $500 million to the total assessed value of the town through sales, new construction, adjustments for increases in (home or commercial) value and utility properties, said Malta Assessor Susan Otis.

Based on this year's tax levies, by way of county and school taxes, very few in the town are seeing tax increases despite the home assessment increases, said Otis.

However, by law, the town can only paint the portrait of a taxpayer's share of the levy based on previous tax levies and cannot figure in average year-to-year increases in county or school budgets. Malta has no town tax other than fire and ambulance districts.

For some residents the fear is that school budgets, as is the trend, will surely increase, and when they do, they will increase drastically when met by higher assessments.

Knowing what such an increase could mean for Malta homeowners, town officials have planned workshops and conducted one-on-one meetings with taxpayers to help them understand how the town came to the figures, said Otis.

At the first of a series of workshops scheduled to answer taxpayers' questions about their assessments Saturday, March 8, there was standing room only in the town hall meeting room.

Many residents were irate and challenged the "outdated" form of taxing property, vowing to grieve the assessments and write their representatives.

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