CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — A mail house facility is to blame for an error on Cumberland residents’ updated property values, according to Kenneth Mallette, the town’s tax assessor.
Every three years, Mallett said Cumberland conducts a reevaluation of each residents’ property, then sends the homeowner the results of that reevaluation.
But letters that were sent out earlier this week were missing a key piece of information: the updated market value.
At the bottom of each letter, homeowners should have been able to see the previous value (from 12/31/2016) and the current value (from 12/31/2019), but instead, the current value on every letter was left blank.
Mallette said a third-party mailing house is responsible for the error. He said Cumberland contracts with Vision Government Solutions Inc. to perform the reassessment of properties, and the company provided Mallette with the letter samples before they were sent out.
“I reviewed those samples and gave them the OK to print them,” Mallette explained. “Those samples had pertinent information on it: they listed names, addresses, locations, the old value and the new value.”
“The third-party grabbed the blank letters rather than the actual letters that had the right information on them,” he added.
Residents immediately knew something was wrong, and that’s when phone calls began flooding into Mallette’s office.
“Cumberland is not out one penny for this mistake,” he said, adding that the vendor will cover the cost of the reprint and postage.
“It was several thousand dollars of a mistake, it was human error,” he said.
Mallette expects the correct letters to be delivered as early as Friday.
An increase in property value
Those who own an entry-level home, meaning the home is worth less than $350,000, might have noticed a significant increase in their overall property value, according to Mallette.
“Those homes under $350,000, the market is really tight on those homes right now,” he said.
Mallette contributes the large jump in value to low-interest rates and high demand.
“There is limited availability at the present time, people are paying those larger prices for those entry-level homes,” he said.
With higher property values, some residents are concerned they will see a significant increase in their property tax, but that might not be the case, according to Mallette.
“Reevaluations are not revenue generators,” Mallette said. “What typically happens is, as market value and value of the community go up, the tax rate comes down. It’s an equalization.”
“If your value went up astronomically – you did a lot of improvements – then yes, you will see an increase,” he added.
Currently, the tax rate for real estate in Cumberland is $15.88 per thousand. Meaning if your home was assessed previously (the last assessment was conducted 12/31/2016) at $250,000, your property tax would amount to $3,970 per year.
Mallette expects the real estate tax rate to drop because of the reevaluation.
“We have budgets to go through and in Cumberland, we set our tax levy in April, which is done by the town council,” he said.
Mallette also said he will know more about the tax rate once the town council sets the tax levy.
“I do anticipate the tax rate dropping,” he said.
Not happy with your new property value?
Those who aren’t satisfied with their new property value can dispute the filings, according to Mallette.
“If you’re a taxpayer who believes your property value is wrong or there is an error, you contact Vision Government Solutions through the methods listed in the letter and they will schedule a meeting,” he said.
But don’t drag your feet on setting up this appointment. Mallette said you have two weeks from receiving the reevaluation to book an appointment.