WINDHAM - Following a long discussion, Windham voters authorized a change in the way its listers perform property appraisals. By a vote of 30 to 20, they also approved a $20,000 appropriation to help pay for the upcoming appraisal, a year process that is scheduled to begin this summer and end in 2014.
"We are changing from a cost basis to a sales basis appraisal," said Michael Simonds, one of Windham's town listers.
The vote was preceded by more than 30 minutes of a "frank exchange of views," he said.
In the past, said Simonds, the listers have used a computer program, inputting data into the system, which turned out a number of what a house should be worth. But that process has left the town at a disadvantage, said Simonds, with a coefficient of dispersion at 18 percent and a common level of appraisal of 82 percent.
According to the state, the COD, is a statistical measurement of the accuracy or confidence level of all assessments. With mass appraisal there is a statistical certainty that some assessments will not reflect the actual market value of property. The COD allows the Listers to determine how accurate overall assessments are based upon sales data. A COD of less than 10 is considered very accurate while a COD of less than 15 is acceptable. A COD above 15 may show inconsistent assessment.
The CLA represents the percentage of value that assessments in town are currently at. As the years after a re-appraisal pass the CLA will typically drop below 100 percent. The goal of a re-appraisal is to bring the COD to zero and the CLA to 100 percent.
"We, as listers, over the past five years, we didn't think that the cost basis method is equitable," said Simonds. "Some of the values are too high and some are too low. Our COD shows that."
Because the town has very few sales on an annual basis, it has been unable to use that method. "The cost approach works well where you can find 15 houses that are the same, but we have 500 distinct homes," said Simonds.
But an outside firm doing the reappraisal will have a much bigger database to draw upon, he said.
"We feel strongly that a professional appraisal team can look at a house and note the curb appeal and look at it as if it is going to sell," said Simonds.
Simonds said the information that will come from the team will be the same kind of information a homeowner would get back if a reappraisal was being done for the purposes of a mortgage.
When the reappraisal is done, some people might pay more while others might pay less, but Simonds said the discussion was more about the cost of the reappraisal, and not the results.
Simonds said turnout was higher this year. Normally only 50 to 60 people show up at Town Meeting. Windham has 326 residents on its voter checklist.
In other business, Alison Trowbridge was elected Town Clerk, defeating Peter Chamberlain 48 to 41. Trowbridge replaces long-time Town Clerk Carol Merritt, who resigned due to health reasons.
"Carol made a surprise entrance and received a standing ovation," said Simonds.
For Town Treasurer, Peter Chamberlain defeated Mary McCoy by a vote of 46 to 41. For the three-year lister position, Simonds defeated Asa Goodband by a vote of 44 to 35.
Mary Boyer was re-elected to a three-year term on the Selectboard and Michael McLaine was elected moderator.
In other offices, Sally Hoover was re-elected as auditor; Ernest Friedli as delinquent tax collector; James A. Scott as grand juror; Michael Simonds as town agent; Antje Ruppert as school director; and Margaret Dwyer, Diane Newton and Paul Wyman as cemetery commissioners.
All articles on the town warning passed, but two of them were amended.
The Selectboard had recommended only $5,000 for pavement retreatment, but voters increased that to $40,000.
"The board was trying to save some money, but folks who live on those roads said it was needed," said Simonds.
Windham has only three paved roads, said Simonds - Windham Hill Road, White Road and Route 121.
Voters also approved an increase in the appropriation for the fire company, from $10,000 to $20,000.
The general fund was approved at $204,208 and the school budget was approved at $365,608.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.