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Littleton tax base up 13 percent


December 12, 2018
LITTLETON—Total assessed valuation—a.k.a. the tax base—rose by a little over $96 million this year, an increase of 13.4 percent, according to paperwork filed with the state earlier this year. The tax base now stands at a little over $814 million.

Non-utility properties—mainly homes and businesses—rose in value even faster, by about 17.4 percent. For comparison, according to real estate website Zillow, the average home price in America rose 7.7 percent this year, and rose 7.5 percent in New Hampshire.

Overall, the assessed value of utilities rose by 5.2 percent, from $234 to $247 million. In 2018, utilities represented about 30 percent of Littleton's total net valuation, down from 33 percent last year

The bulk—77 percent—of Littleton's utility value is owned by Great River Hydro. In 2018, the value of their Littleton holdings rose to $182 million, an increase of 3.4 percent. The distant second-largest owner of utilities was Eversource Energy, which owned property worth about $38 million in 2018, an increase of 12 percent. In recent years, fluctuations in the value of hydroelectric utilities has been a major contributor to instability in the tax rate.

In 2018, there were 19,178 acres in current use, worth a total of $1.16 million. The most of these acres were forest land—17,746 acres in all—with an additional 770 acres of farm land. The total value of land in current use represents less than two tenths of one percent of Littleton's total valuation.

In 2018, about $4.46 million worth of property was exempt from taxation, only slightly higher then last year. Only about one half of one percent of property value is was exempted from taxes this year.

In 2018, Littleton received some $140,847 worth of payments in lieu of taxes from fourteen nonprofit organizations. For instance, the largest was worth $38,958 from the Alder Brook Sportmens' association, and the second largest was the Littleton Hospital Association. These values were roughly level with last year.

Tax rate to fall

The increase in valuations will make possible a roughly 10.5 percent reduction in the local assessed tax rate.

On the supply side of the tax base, Littleton is largely at the mercy of market forces.

"When the select board is going to set the tax rate, they have very little control over what can and can't be changed," said Town Manager Andrew Dorsett, "When we present a budget, we are presenting something that is as close to what we need as possible."

Dorsett attributed the sharp uptick in total assessed property to a thriving, diverse economy, and pointed out that values rose across all sectors.

For Littleton residents with above-average property values, a lower tax rate may not translate to a smaller tax bill, especially if their homes grew in value ahead of the 13.5 percent average.

"Even thought the tax rate went down, they should talk to whoever their tax adviser is," Dorsett recommended. "Especially for small and medium sized businesses thinking about end-of-year purchases."

Local tax bills went out last month, and are due back in late December. For those who prepaid, before the higher valuation and lower rates were published, a discount may be in the offing.

Martin Lord Osman
PArkerVillager Internal Page
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