REFERENCE:  36 M.R.S. §§ 310, 311, 312, 318.
March 17, 2014; Replaces July 2010 Revision.

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1.     General

Local property tax is the major source of revenue supporting government services and activities in the State of Maine.  Much criticism directed at property tax concerns administration of the assessment process.

If accurate equalization of assessments, as directed by statute, is to be attained, it is essential that qualified people perform the assessment function.  The Legislature, recognizing the leading role of property tax in the overall state tax structure, has enacted legislation to meet the need for properly trained assessors.  The ultimate objective of this legislation is to develop a level of competence in assessment administration so that all property will be equitably assessed according to the laws of the State of Maine.

The law requires Maine Revenue Services (“MRS”) to hold qualifying examinations and issue certificates to those who pass the required tests by demonstrating the knowledge and ability required to adequately perform the duties of a qualified assessor.  This bulletin is issued to provide information relative to the training courses, the certification examinations, and the annual assessor’s school.

2.     Administration

The training and certification program is administered by the Property Tax Division of MRS.  Two categories of certificates, Certified Maine Assessor (“CMA”) and Certified Assessment Technician (“CAT”), are issued to people who demonstrate their ability to perform the assessment function by passing the appropriate exam.

A certificate does not guarantee the holder a position as a tax assessor.  However, MRS hopes that as positions for professional assessors become available, municipalities will consider these certificates part of the qualification when choosing an assessor.

3.     Training Courses

The Property Tax Division presently offers three basic courses in assessing:

Basic Course 1.  This course covers:

  • Property and Value;
  • Assessment and the Appraisal Process;
  • Property Assessment Records;
  • Mass Appraisal; and
  • Public Relations.

Handout:  Market Data Approach to Value

Basic Course 2.  This course covers:

  • Laws Relating to Property Taxation; and
  • Assessment Office Administration.

Basic Course 3.  This course covers:

  •  The Cost Approach to Value;
  •  Use of Pricing Schedules;
  •  Appraisal of Residential Buildings;
  •  Appraising Mobile Homes;
  •  Appraising Commercial Properties;
  •  Land Valuation;
  • Depreciation & Obsolescence; and
  • Income Approach to Value.

Each basic course concludes with an examination which, at the discretion of the instructor, may be open-book.  Exams are corrected and scored by the instructor; formal notification to the student of the results is made by the Property Tax Division, ordinarily within one month from the date of the exam.

The courses are taught by certified assessors, approved by the Property Tax Division, who have shown a willingness and aptitude for teaching.  Course locations are preferably in an educational environment such as a local school or college, but may be elsewhere depending on the convenience of the instructor and students.

When offered, classes are generally held one evening each week for ten to twelve weeks with starting dates in September and January.  As a rule, each basic course is also offered in its entirety at the annual Maine Property Tax School.  Note: Those wishing to receive notification of the next schedule of courses should notify the Property Tax Division in writing to request that their name and address be added to the mailing list.  Course notifications are normally sent about six to seven weeks prior to the exams at the end of each basic course.

Additional information pertaining to training courses may be found below in sections 5 – Recertification and 6 – Maine Property Tax School.

4.     Certification

Certification examinations are ordinarily held at the annual Maine Property Tax School each summer and at least three other times and places during the year.  Students are allowed pencils and a calculator only; no other materials may be brought into the testing room.  All necessary reference material is included in the test packets.  The time limit for each examination is eight hours.

The CMA examination is composed of five parts:

  • Part one poses 25 short answer/essay questions covering all aspects of Maine property tax law. Part one is open-book and the publication “Laws Pertaining to Property Taxation” is furnished to students. Correct answers involve one or more short sentences.  The time limit for part one is four hours.  Upon completion, part one must be returned (along with the law book) to the testing monitor in exchange for the second packet which contains parts two through five of the examination.  Parts two through five have no individual time limits, but all parts must be completed within the eight hour time limit.
  • Part two contains 50 multiple choice questions on assessment theory including concepts of value, concepts of property, and assessment mathematics.
  • Part three contains 50 multiple choice questions dealing with land valuation and tax maps.
  • Part four contains 50 multiple choice questions on the cost approach to value and the market approach to value.
  • Part five contains 50 multiple choice questions on the income approach to value, land pricing, assessment ratio studies, and mapping mathematics.

The CAT examination is very similar to the CMA, with the following exceptions:

  • Part one poses 50 multiple choice questions (rather than the short answer/essay questions for part one of the CMA exam) dealing with Maine property tax law.
  • All five parts of the examination are combined into a single testing packet with a total time-limit of seven hours.
  • There are no questions on the income approach to value.
  • The publication “Laws Pertaining to Property Taxation” is furnished to students and can be used for the entire exam.

The CMA certificate is awarded to those who achieve a score of 70% or better on each part of the CMA test, thereby showing that they have the basic knowledge and abilities required to perform the assessing function in almost any Maine municipality.  Some assessor positions may require additional expertise.

The CAT certificate is awarded to those who achieve an average score of 70% or better over the entire CAT examination, thereby showing that they are qualified to perform the assessing function for a municipality with a population of less than 4,000.  Although not fully certified in all aspects of appraisal, the holder does have sufficient knowledge of appraisal and assessment administration procedures to perform adequately in situations encountered by the majority of Maine municipalities. 

Information relating to training and certification is included in the attached copy of MRS Rule 205 – Certification of Assessors.  Certificates (both CMA and CAT) are renewed annually, provided the holders complete at least 16 hours of classroom training approved by the State Tax Assessor during the previous year.

Since July 1, 1980, any person performing the duties of chief assessor of a primary assessing area or the duties of a professional assessor of any municipal assessing district must, by law, be certified in the manner outlined in this bulletin.  Violation of this required certification is punishable by a fine. 36 M.R.S. § 312.

The term "professional assessor" is defined by law to mean any person employed full-time by one or more municipalities or by a primary assessing area and devoting at least 75% of their time to assessment administration.

5.     Recertification.

The recertification requirement to complete 16 hours of approved classroom training may be fulfilled by attending approved seminars and courses that are scheduled periodically throughout the year.  These sessions attempt to satisfy the educational needs of local assessors in such areas as:

  • Accounting procedures for assessors;
  • Advanced assessment ratio analysis;
  • Agricultural appraisals of barns, poultry houses and silos;
  • Appraisal of multi-housing residential;
  • Commercial-industrial appraisal;
  • Computerized assessment, CAMA and GIS applications;
  • Cost schedules and market data studies;
  • Current use valuation of farmland, woodland and open space;
  • Land use regulations;
  • Land frontage value for rivers, lakes, ocean  and, islands;
  • Legal aspects of assessment administration;
  • Mass appraisal and revaluation;
  • Mobile home valuation;
  • Personal property assessment;
  • Pricing manuals; Boeckh, Marshall & Swift;
  • Property tax map drafting and deed interpretation;
  • Public utility appraisals;
  • Seasonal property appraisal of camps, cottages and huts; and
  • State valuation.

6.     Maine Property Tax School

The annual Maine Property Tax School, held for one week during the summer, provides training for part-time and full-time Maine assessors as well as others involved in the vocation of assessment administration in the State of Maine.  The Maine Property Tax School is also an opportunity to satisfy the 16-hour training recertification requirement.
In addition to the three basic courses outlined in section 3, instruction has historically included:

(a)   Review Course. A four-day general review of all topics contained in the basic courses is open to all candidates for certification.

(b)  Advanced Courses. Certification renewal requirements may be fulfilled by successfully completing an advanced course.  For examples, see section 5.

(c)  International Association of Assessing Officers (“IAAO”) courses and/or courses approved by the Appraiser Qualifications Board.  Headquartered in Kansas City, the IAAO offers a variety of courses dealing with real property appraisal, appraisal of income property and fundamentals of mass appraisal.  The IAAO offers a professional designation, Certified Assessment Evaluator (“CAE”), which is recognized world-wide and held by a number of Maine's municipal assessors.

Anyone wishing to receive notification of and application for the next Maine Property Tax School should notify the Property Tax Division in writing, requesting that their name and address be added to the student mailing list.

7.     Recommended Reading and/or Reference Material

Property Appraisal and Assessment Administration; and
Property Assessment Valuation
International Association of Assessing Officers
314 West 10th Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64105

The Appraisal of Real Estate
Appraisal Institute
200 W. Madison, Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60606

Assessment Manual;
Laws Relating to Property Taxation; and
Property Tax Bulletins
Maine Revenue Services
Property Tax Division
P.O. Box 9106, Augusta, ME  04332-9106

Municipal Assessment Manual
Maine Municipal Association ()
60 Community Drive, Augusta, ME  04330

Marshall & Swift Cost Manuals; and
Boeckh Building Valuation Manual
Marshall & Swift
777 South Figueroa St., 12th floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017

RS Means Building Construction Costs
RS Means
700 Longwater Drive, Norwell, MA 02061

For more information, contact: Property Tax Division, PO Box 9106 Augusta, ME 04332 Attn: Training & Certification (207)287-2013 or NexTalk: 1-888-577-6690.

NOTE: This bulletin is intended solely as advice to assist persons in determining, exercising or complying with their legal rights, duties or privileges. If further information is needed, contact the Property Tax Division of Maine Revenue Services.

PO BOX 9106
AUGUSTA, MAINE 04332-9106
TEL: (207) 624-5600

The Department of Administrative and Financial Services does not discriminate on the basis of disability in admission to, access to, or operation of its programs, services or activities. This material can be made available in alternate formats by contacting the Department's ADA Coordinator at (207) 624-8288(voice) or V/TTY: 7-1-1.