The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 26, 2002


Town Hall welcomes new administrative assessor

John Spidell, Carlisle's new administrative assessor, has only been on the job for just over a week, but already he is a man with a mission. One of his biggest goals in this new position is to educate Carlisleans about the assessment process to demystify how his office arrives at our property assessments. John officially describes the job of the assessor's office as "maintaining records on real and personal property," and unofficially as "keeping updates on the worth of property." He also has a sense of humor. When asked if there is a consistent formula for figuring the value of a house, he deadpans, "Darts."

What do the assessors do?
Administrative assessor John Spidell (Photo by Lois d'Annunzio)

Spidell explained that his office first categorizes homes into styles: ranch, colonial, split-level, etc., and then considers sales figures for the fiscal year, including arm's length transactions, sales to family, etc., to calculate a median price for each type. Other factors figure into each individual valuation: depreciation and age, quality of property and neighborhood, number of outbuildings and bathrooms, and square footage of the house and lot. Land sales are also part of the picture, and if there have been no current sales of land, the office calculates how much it would cost to put a house on a particular lot. His effort is to assess each property according to fair market value ­ if this house were put on the market today, what would be a fair selling price? Taxes are assessed as a percentage of fair market value.

The state, Spidell says, requires each town to reassess property every three years. He feels that this is a minimum standard with a lot of shock value built into it: markets can fluctuate wildly in that time, and a house that sold for $700,000 three years ago could fetch as much as $1 million in three years time. That would represent a big jump in the resident's real estate taxes. He feels that more frequent assessments ease the pain of rising values, and therefore rising taxes. Since September 11, there has been less volume in home sales in general, but prices are up. Carlisle is due for an assessment in 2004, but Spidell will conduct one in fiscal 2003 to update and keep residents current with their property values.

Roots are local

Spidell hails from Bedford, where he lives with his wife Kerry and their young son. He graduated with a double major from Plymouth State College in 1987, and found himself hitting the pavement in the middle of a recession. His first job was with a revaluation company in Chelmsford. He notes that at the time such companies were actually doing the job of town assessors. In 1981, Sudbury had challenged the state's new mandate, saying that towns like Boston had not reassessed in up to 20 years and were not updating their records. Sudbury refused to comply with the three-year law until it was enforced statewide. Assessors, some of whom had never actually done valuations of real and personal properties in their towns, called on revaluation companies to come up with the figures. Gathering experience, Spidell moved from that company through a couple of related positions and wound up as the assistant assessor for Weston. His new position in Carlisle represents a welcome promotion and a much easier commute.

Spidell replaces Sean McFadden, who returned to his former position as an assessor in the town of Rowley.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito