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Tuftonboro selectmen critical of the town's assessors

September 30, 2010
TUFTONBORO — Cross Country Appraisal Group, LLC, the contract assessors for the Town of Tuftonboro, took some heat from the Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen at the Sept. 27 meeting. Owner Jeff Earls listened to several complaints, chief among them was a lack of communication to the board. Members expressed frustration that they did not have the appraisal information in a timely fashion, so could not satisfactorily answer residents' questions.

"It would have been helpful to have a conversation before hand, " said Selectman Chair Carolyn Sundquist, referring to the public hearings. "You don't want it to get to the point that they are angry."

She complained that the letter to the taxpayers was sent out too close to the meeting, resulting in some people coming without any information.

Selectman Bill Stockman reiterated that point and said also that he asked for information himself on half a dozen specific parcels, but still didn't have an answer.

Earls said that he and his fellow appraiser had the folder with answers for him, but Stockman was not assuaged, "That doesn't help me prepare to talk with you now!"

He added, "We stressed how important it was to get hearings through before Labor Day in the hiring process and now you want us to waive the penalty fees and get an extension?"

In his defense, Earls said that he thought that the town's assessor, Dave Wylie, who also works for Cross Country Appraisal, had passed along the request for an extension earlier, so didn't realize that the selectmen were not notified of that. "I wasn't aware that this board is so involved. That is not usually the case," he added.

He also said that a couple of bad weather days slowed down their progress in visiting waterfront homes and that the utility values had not been readily available.

Stockman asked if there would be a summary to answer questions on statistical changes in town and the background on any changes. He also wanted to know shorage values for Mirror Lake and Dan Hole Pond.

He was told that the answers to his questions would be forthcoming in the week ahead.

The appraisers passed along a question from Dusty Davies, president of the Mirror Lake Protective Association, who asked if there would be an adjustment for Mirror Lake because of its bacterial issues. The appraiser added that there were two sales in the past year than were higher than usual. Selectmen Duffy replied that it was premature to do that and the others agreed.

Earls said that he would be available by phone and mail to residents who have questions and said that selectmen were entitled to levy penalty fees.

The board decided to proceed with the penalty fine of $100 a day to Cross Country Appraisal for turning in the report 24 days after the agreed upon date, but Stockman suggested that they hold off to see when they actually receive the full report.

Bob McWhirter spoke up from the sidelines to ask if the tardiness of the information would present a burden to taxpayers with questions, who now would be facing an abatement process. Sundquist said that residents could come in and see Wylie before deciding to enter into any abatement process.

Stockman commented at the end of the meeting that he was going to call to find out how the town's valuation went down $64 million in value between the hearings and the final report. "That's substantial," agreed Sundquist.

The town's total valuation went down $24 million this year from last, a reduction of 2.5 percent.

Wylie is available at the town office building the first and third Mondays of the month from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Tuftonboro Web site also has links for information on assessing and the abatement process.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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