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Supervisors scrutinize home sale comparisons

"We will answer any questions on any data that we supply them," said Aiken.

Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava still said the lack of communication made it difficult for towns, most of which have part-time assessors.

"Why don't you put the information in the packet as to how they arrived at the [market value] instead of having the assessors go hunting for it?" he asked.

Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow described the precarious situation in his town, where the most houses being sold are Port Kent properties being purchased by second homeowners for significantly more than the assessed value. He expressed concern that such extraordinary sales could skew market value data in his town and lead to inflated assessments on other properties.

Mallison agreed that assessments for waterfront property posed a problem, but that to change the way they are assessed would require new legislation at the state level.

Ron Jackson, Essex supervisor and chairman of the committee, was among many who questioned how increases in assessments could be justified during a time when many houses are being sold for less than their assessed value.

"It puts the assessors in a horrible spot," he said.

According to Aiken, ORPS can often verify the level of assessment stated by local assessors if reassessments are done regularly. If not, they try to use a sales ratio study that compares current assessment to the sale prices of recently sold homes in the town.

"If we don't have enough sales there to give us a statistic town-wide, we try to expand the market area," Aiken explained.

In those cases, the agency uses CAMA, a computerized statistical analysis that uses certain formulas comparing sales in the target town with those in neighboring towns in an effort to produce a more reliable valuation of properties.

"One of the problems with the [sales ratio] study going back three years is that the data could be out of date," said North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi, arguing that it wouldn't be representative of recent steep declines in market value.

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