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Waterfront owners fuming over assessment hikes

August 11, 2010
MOULTONBORO — Large spikes in assessment estimates have angered many waterfront residents, though the Board of Selectmen said it wants to see more data before taking action.

Vision Appraisal Technologies has been conducting the town's annual reassessment.

Project manager Paul McKenney, who is working in Moultonboro for the first time, appeared at the town's Summer Informational Meeting in July to explain the appraisal process and how the values were determined.

"There's a lot of variables in Moultonboro," McKenney said.

McKenney said sale properties between April 1, 2009 and April 1, 2010 were reviewed for accuracy and analyzed for Arms Length Sales. Additionally, property changes after a sale disqualified the sale. Value modeling and testing was done and was then followed by informal meetings with taxpayers.

In an informational packet distributed at the meeting, McKinney said sales analysis factored real estate sales with no preconceived estimates of value, an in depth study of real estate sales, determination of land prices and building value and depreciation, and the development of appraisal models based on the market.

According to the presentation, data collection of sales, review of sale properties, the development of appraisal models, and field review are completed. Informal meetings started on July 30 and the project is anticipated for completion by Sept. 15.

McKenney presented preliminary results that show an overall assessment increase of one percent. Residential properties not influenced by water decreased 10 percent while waterfront residential properties increased 6 percent. Condos decreased 14 percent and commercial properties decreased 2 percent.

McKenney said some properties may have seen larger increases because they were close to the location of a sale. He disputed that every property saw an increase of around 29 percent, which he said would be "grossly unfair."

"One sale does not make a statistical analysis," McKenney said.

Many property owners, however, reported at the summer meeting and subsequent selectmen's meetings that they had seen increases in value of 20 to 30 percent.

Several residents have said assessments in their neighborhoods went up although there have only been a few sales. Many reported seeing houses on the market for years where the price has dropped substantially below assessed value.

"Ask any real estate agent if property values went up 30 percent on land," said resident Fred Van Magness at the summer meeting. "I am really frustrated with what's going on. The process of abatements is going to be really unwieldy for this town."

Joe Sullo, a real estate agent, said there have been around 25 waterfront sales between April of 2009 and 2010. The MLS listings had six additional properties that had not been included in the analysis and there were two errors in valuation according to the MLS.

Richard Barrett said his property went up around 22 percent and three comparable properties were found to his.

Joe Querisma said two houses in his area sold below their appraisal price. Additionally milfoil was not considered as a factor in considering appraisals.

"The whole purpose of the revaluation is to create equity," McKenney said at the summer meeting. "We want to make everyone the same."

This statement was met with all around disagreement by residents.

McKenney said the assessments were done to make sure everyone's value was in line with everyone else's.

"Whatever the value was last year and whatever sales were last year I consolidated them," McKenney said.

Town Assessor Gary Carp asked people to come in and take part in the informal hearing process. Carp said the numbers are preliminary and figures could not be released yet because they were still being calculated. The final numbers would not be in until the process was done.

"You have an awful lot of people paying taxes in this town," said Mel Borrin. "They're looking at you for some answers and I will tell you they're not going to give up."

"I listen to everybody's concerns," McKenney said. "If I can make a change I certainly will. Our whole goal is to create equity. I don't want anybody to feel like no one's listening."

Residents have since expressed disdain with the process to the Board of Selectmen. During both the July 28 and Aug. 5 meetings, residents voiced their disdain for the first hour of each meeting.

Several said they had gone to an informal hearing and were angry with the process.

On July 28, Van Magness said he went for an informal hearing and said Vision could not adequately explain why values had gone up that drastically and how they arrived at the market value.

"I'm trying to work the process that Vision and the town has laid out," Van Magness said. "I don't like that process and I think that process is wrong for the town of Moultonboro."

Fred Cramer said he also met with Vision and found their information lacking. Cramer said Vision did not have any data and could not answer questions.

"How do you explain 30 percent increase in value when market values are down all over the community?" Cramer asked.

Cramer said his area has had two sales in the last two years.

Some members of the board said they were not aware of the large spikes.

"We're hearing this more and more now," said Selectman James Gray. "I hadn't heard 28, 29 percent."

Selectman Karel Crawford said the Department of Revenue Administration carefully examines all appraisal figures and will find any inequity or errors.

A week later, Board Chair Joel Mudgett said that the selectmen wanted to wait until Vision was done with its process. Additionally, assessment cards have been taken to the DRA for review to see if the assessments are accurate. Mudgett said the board wanted to see this data before making a decision for another meeting.

Town Administrator Carter Terenzini said a public meeting between the town and Vision has been tentatively planned for Aug. 26, though that date is up in the air. Terenzini said the town needs to hear from the DRA, but said the town is aware of the timeline for taxes.

"Let them come back to us and we'll take them to task," Mudgett said. "I'm listening to what everybody's saying and I understand. We understand what you're going through. We want to go through the process."

Several residents, however, asked the board to take more immediate action.

After the meeting, residents circulated a reassessment petition that requires 50 signatures for a reassessment to take place.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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