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Moultonboro taxpayers demand assessment answers

September 01, 2010
MOULTONBORO — Taxpayers are demanding answers from assessors and town officials as to why their property values have taken large leaps.

The town is in the process of an annual appraisal by Vision Appraisal Technology. Several residents, especially waterfront property owners, have told the town their assessments have increased between 20 and 30 percent or more.

On Thursday, the Board of Selectmen scheduled a workshop to discuss the assessments with town assessor Gary Karp and Vision Appraisal representatives Paul McKenney and Dave Arnold.

The meeting was moved from town hall to the Moultonboro Academy auditorium to accommodate more than 100 people who turned out for the meeting.

Karp gave a presentation on the logistics behind the appraisals.

Karp said equalization statistics are based on three factors: the median ratio, or assessed value divided by the sale price; the Coefficient of Dispersion (COD), the difference between the median and each sale; and the Price Related Differential (PRD), which measures vertical equity between property types.

Karp said the median ratio and the COD were well within state accepted ranges, but the PRD was .07 above recommended guidelines. If the PRD is more than one, it means higher valued property is over assessed compared to property of lower value.

The town does assessment updates every year as a mass appraisal based on sales statistics.

The July 7 preliminary values indicated that 14 percent of parcels (1,055 parcels) had no change in value, 26 percent or 1,922, went up, and 60 percent, or 4,390, went down.

Karp said in the presentation that there were 206 sales between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010. Of the 203, 103 sales were disqualified for factors such as being divorce sales, family sales, multi-parcel sales, trust sales, foreclosure sales, bank sales, or town, state, and federal government sales. Sales were also disqualified if substantial construction and renovation was done to the property.

Vision Appraisal conducted informal hearings between July 19 and Aug. 6, meeting with 181 taxpayers and conducting telephone hearings with 78 taxpayers.

Assessors discussed the analysis and took closer looks at outliers, or sales with large differences between assessed value and sale price, and calculated possible effects on neighborhoods.

Vision ran the complete analysis again, looking at 366 sales going back to April 1, 2008 instead of the initial 196 sales used in the preliminary analysis. The calculations included 184 qualified sales, equaling 2.5 percent of the properties in town.

Karp said the values as of Aug. 24 show 21 percent of parcels had no change, 22 percent went up, and 57 percent went down.

According to the July , 1 percent of all properties went up, while 1 percent went down in the August figures. Waterfront went up 6 percent in July, though the August figures said waterfront property went up 3 percent. In both analyses, non-waterfront went down 10 percent, condominium went down 14 percent, and commercial went down 2 percent.

Karp said he did not have specific figures on how much each individual property went up or down. As an example, a waterfront property on West Point Road that was assessed at around $1.506 million in 2009 had a preliminary assessment of $1.764 million in July, but that number went to $1.635 million in the new assessment.

"We've got a pretty defensible product," Karp said, saying assessors were confident with the numbers and recommended that the Board of Selectmen approve them.

Many taxpayers, however, wanted more specific answers.

Taxpayers gathered earlier in the week to discuss the issue and compiled a sheet of questions they wanted answered, such as specific values and calculations on how Vision reached their numbers.

Bob Clark said he has three parcels on Lee's Pond and all three increased by 65 to 66 percent.

"They never gave us a succinct answer as to why it went up so high," said Joe Sulo, a colleague of Clark's at Roche Realty.

Sulo said sale prices were going way down and this was the economy of bankruptcies and foreclosure sales.

"And yet the town and Vision Appraisal chose to pick and choose the group," Sulo said. "I swear, nowhere in the country has any property gone up 26 or 40 percent."

Karp said cities such as Miami and Las Vegas have had to calculate foreclosure and other distressed sales in their assessments because they have become more prevalent.

"Here in Moultonboro, even thought there are some properties that are going into foreclosure, you can't say the foreclosure market is the market," Karp said.

Resident Fred Van Magness said Vision has not produced any real data to justify the increases.

"We're still sitting here with no information," Van Magness said.

Van Magness said there are properties on the market whose price continues to drop because they have been for sale for so long. Additionally there was one property sale in his neighborhood that residents hoped would bring assessments to a more reasonable level; instead the sale was disqualified because construction was done on the property.

Arnold said there have already been numerous sales on the waterfront and more since the prior assessment.

Arnold also said the raw data will be available on the Vision website and a manual will be available on the assessed values.

"Keep in mind this is still a work in progress," Arnold said.

"I know of no sales on the waterfront," said Leon Miller. "How can you compare something when there hasn't been waterfront dales in five years? How can the properties go up in value 25 percent when there has been no sales?"

Several residents protested the use of the neighborhood factor in assessments. Arnold said the neighborhood assessments have developed over a period of several years as activity has taken place.

Town Administrator Carter Terenzini said anyone who had a change in value from the previous assessment will receive a notice of final value. Residents who took part in a hearing and had no change from the previous assessment will also receive a letter notifying them of this. Terenzini said 725 notices will be mailed out.

Several residents said they wanted to see what data was used and the numbers specific to their properties. Karp and representatives from Vision said that data is not yet available, but it will be released at the end of the process when the Board of Selectmen approves the new assessments.

McKenney said the figures will be reviewed by the Department of Revenue Administration as valuation will go to the DRA on the town's MS1 form.

Board of Selectmen Chair Joel Mudgett said the board could reject the figures, but that was "highly unlikely."

Many residents also took issue with how Karp was up giving all the explanations while the selectmen and representatives from Vision were sitting down in the audience.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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