HE construction values rise drastically during pandemic

By James Matthews
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Building activity has remained consistent in Highlands East since 2013.
Tracy Evans, the Building Department’s administrative assistant, told town council when it met Feb. 14 that building permits has been steady through those years.
Construction values have increased year over year with 2021 and 2022 being the greatest.
“We seem to be moving in that direction,” she said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown when much activity shut down worldwide, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation has been using 2016 figures to value properties.
The values assigned by the corporation are what’s used to calculate municipal tax levies and such.
Deputy Mayor Cecil Ryall asked if the money from the town’s construction figures are based on the 2016 MPAC estimate values.
“Because it looked like it took one wallop of a jump,” he said. “And then it’s kind of stayed where it is.”
Indeed, Highlands East tallied its construction value in 2020 at $12.1 million. And then, just a year later, the value jumps to $42.9 million in 2021 and $39.2 million in 2022.
“If it based on 2016, would we have any idea what will happen when they (MPAC) move that up?” Ryall said.
Evans said the values are based on 2016 assessments. But the construction value is also calculated based on what is being built.
“If you’re building a new dwelling, that has a higher construction value than someone who is possibly putting on a deck,” she said.
Because of the pandemic and its required social distancing, Evans said many seasonal cottage residents moved into the area fulltime.
“And they’ve been renovating their houses to become fulltime residences, which then adds a higher construction value when we do the MPAC assessments,” she said.
Ryall suggested that, if the construction values were to be based on 2023 assessment numbers, then the tally would be a “holy-doodle” amount. Perhaps that’s unfair from a taxation standpoint, he said.
“A new build is going to be based on 2023 value, whereas my house will be based on 2016 (assessment),” Ryall said.
Evans said supplemental tax bills are issued when somebody is going through the building process.