2012-07-19 / Front Page

Data collection begins for revaluation of properties

Assessments are mandated by state every nine years
BY TIM RIEL

Jamestowners shouldn’t be alarmed if they witness two strangers knocking on doors in their neighborhoods. According to Tax Assessor Ken Gray, the two men work for Vision Government Solutions, a contractor hired by the town to go house to house and collect data from each piece of property so it can be revaluated for tax purposes.

“It’s painless,” Gray said. “They’re in and out.”

The revaluation takes place every nine years and is state mandated. While Jamestown assesses each property on a three-year basis, the nine-year appraisal is more comprehensive. The 36-month estimate doesn’t warrant anyone entering the home unless it had been sold in the previous three years.

Steve Ferreira is the project manager. He says the two data collectors – David Boehm and Bryan Vitale – began knocking on doors this month.

“We haven’t had any problems,” said Ferreira. “It’s been going well. Every community has a different range of people, but so far most people in Jamestown have cooperated. For some reason, some people want to reserve their right to privacy. They have the right to say ‘no.’ We can’t force our way in.”

While property owners can deny entry, Gray thinks it is in their best interest to let the men do their job. “It’s beneficial to the homeowner so that the house is accurately assessed,” he said. “We don’t want to have to guess what the inside looks like.”

Ferreira said that Boehm and Vitale aren’t assessors, but rather data collectors. “They are not there to appraise the property. They are just there to collect physical data. They may ask some questions, like how old the house is. But we don’t expect everyone to know those answers, especially in Jamestown where a house could be 200 years old.”

Some of the things that the data collectors will look for is whether there is central air conditioning; are the floors hardwood, linoleum or carpet; is it heated using oil, gas or electricity; how many bathrooms; are the countertops granite or laminate.

“We want to know the quality of the construction,” said Gray.

According to Ferreira, the whole process takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. He said the data collectors will first identify themselves and ask the homeowner if it’s a good time to check the house. Boehm and Vitale will both be wearing photo badges and will have a letter of identification from Gray. They are also registered with the Jamestown Police Department, so patrolmen know what neighborhood they are working in.

“They do a quick walk-through from the basement to the attic,” said Ferreira. “They are going off the assessor’s records, so it’s basically verifying information. Then they go outside and take measurements of the structures on the property.”

According to Ferreira, both men had background checks before being hired. In the case of Boehm, Ferreira estimates that he has been with the company for 15 years without incident.

“They are polite gentlemen, and as courteous as possible,” added Gray. “They will treat everyone the same. They’re objective.”

If nobody is home when the data collectors knock on a door, Ferreira said they sometimes try again at the end of the day. If they still don’t talk to anybody, Vision will send a letter to the property owner saying they were unable to make contact. A toll-free number where owners can call and schedule an appointment is included.

There are 2,711 residential dwellings in Jamestown, as well as 85 residential condominiums, 79 commercial buildings, 25 commercial condominiums, seven apartments, two industrial buildings and 297 tax-exempt structures.

(There are also 509 vacant residential lots and two vacant commercial lots.) The total value of taxable property in Jamestown is just under $2 billion.

Ferreira said that the data collection is expected to be completed in October, but building permits issued until Dec. 31 will be taken into account for the assessment.

Tax bills will be sent out next summer. Property owners have until Dec. 12 to appeal their bill with Gray. (“The first appeal is informal,” he said.) After Gray renders his decision – within 45 days – the taxpayer then has 30 days to appeal to the tax board. The panel must hear the case within 90 days. If the property owner is dissatisfi ed with the board’s decision, they have 30 days to file a petition in Superior Court.

The contract with Vision cost the town $139,000. It is $50,000 less than the town paid in 2003 for the last nine-year revaluation.

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