Town adjusts measurements to be more precise for property taxes

In an effort to get more accurate calculations for town property tax bills, Shelburne town officials have scrutinized records and updated their database so property sizes in the town system better reflect the actual size of parcels that people own and pay taxes on.

The recent updates to the system resulted in the town lister’s office sending out letters to some 1,300 taxpayers informing them of the tweak to the math being used to calculate their tax bills.

Shelburne Town Lister Ted Nelson said the goal was to reconcile the property maps that show land measurements to the land sizes used in the Grand List from which taxes are calculated. The change was explained in this year’s annual town report ahead of Town Meeting Day.

As it turned out, the figures used previously were typically rounded up or down to the nearest tenth of an acre. The goal of the recent exercise was to get closer to the actual land sizes by rounding to hundredths of an acre, Nelson explained.

As a result, 1,298 of the town’s 2,906 taxable parcels were affected by the review, and most saw very small adjustments.

Letters were sent out last month to the affected property owners detailing their updated lot sizes, Nelson said.

Peggy Lambert, who lives on Collamer Circle, was one property owner in the group. She said her letter arrived in early May.

“It was not a good thing to hear on Mother’s Day (weekend) that they were taking my property away,” she said with a laugh.

In Lambert’s case, her property was previously listed as .70 acres but that now will be on the books as .65 acres. She didn’t really lose any ground – the calculation before was simply rounded to one place after the decimal and now it will be rounded to two places.

Nelson explained that having many small discrepancies like that prompted the town to make the updates. In some cases the new rounding increased the parcel size, and in other cases the size is now smaller, he said.

“This effort was to describe all properties as accurately as possible,” he said.

Nelson along with Administrative Assistant Betty Jean Bouge worked with the national parcel-mapping firm Russell Graphics to use computer software to calculate more exact land sizes from the town’s parcel maps. Neither the town nor the mapper directly re-measured the land.

Of the parcels with changed descriptions, 653 increased in size and 645 decreased, Nelson said.

There will likely be very little change when it comes to tax assessments and the resulting bills, he noted. “Overall this change was more or less neutral, we don’t know to the penny.”

In 21 cases, however, the measurements increased a tenth of an acre or more. Those changes will likely affect the parcel’s value more drastically, Nelson said.

The letters were mailed out May 10, and property owners had until May 25 to grieve the newly assessed values. Both Nelson and Bouge are available to answer questions.

Tax bills will go out to Shelburne property owners this summer, and updated parcel sizes will be applied to the upcoming bills. Taxes are due to the town of Shelburne August 15, November 15 and March 15.

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