Tuftonboro selectmen meet with DRA about quality of town assessors' work
October 07, 2010
TUFTONBORO — Some Tuftonboro citizens have threatened not to fund this year's tax appraisal at town meeting, expressing the view that the poor economy was affecting property values, so why spend the money this year. Complaints about the process this year have stirred that sentiment, too, so Steve Hamilton, the Department of Revenue Administration's director of the State of New Hampshire Property Appraisal, thought it was a good time to pay a visit to Tuftonboro selectmen at their Oct. 4 meeting.
Hamilton offered a brief history lesson on the change to the state constitution that was made over 150 years ago, to require a town to reassess its property every five years in the interest of fairness. Tuftonboro came to Hamilton's attention in the fourth year because its waterfront values were rising in relation to the moderately valued properties, a problem with "vertical equity."
Hamilton says that the reassessment, which was only a partial update, corrects that divergence of value, offering a comfort because it is "our duty to tax fairly."
He also noted that the New Hampshire's overall property values have gone down six percent, so Tuftonboro's three per cent decrease in value from 2009 is not surprising.
When questioned about what he thought of the job that the town's contract assessor, Cross Country Appraisals (CCA), had done in Tuftonboro, Hamilton reminded the board that his review has shown that there has been a low number of mistakes. He also suggested, in light of the finding of duplicate cards in the file, that the town needs to define a standard for data collection so that when a switch is made from one company to another, the information is easily transferable.
Selectman Bill Stockman, the board's representative to the Capital Improvements Program committee, said that it had suggested that money be put aside in capital reserve each year to update the information on property values. Hamilton affirmed the benefit of such a move and stressed the need for correct physical data, adding, "You can't have some [property owners] at 100 percent and others at 120 percent."
Two of the town's assessors, Dave Wiley and Dan Ward from CCA, were present for the discussion. Ward said that the data from the previous company was "not that accurate." He also stated that he is available to answer individual's questions. Stockman, who had expressed annoyance at the last meeting at the lack of timeliness in the process, said that since then he had learned that 273 people had had a chance to voice their concerns at the hearings and by pbone. Also, many of his own questions had been answered.
Selectman Chair Carolyn Sundquist referred to a letter from CCA asking for an extension and a waiver of penalty fines. She asked Selectmen Duffy and Stockman what they thought about those requests. "A $2,000 fine is a drop in the bucket in a job this size," said Stockman, adding that the owner, Jeff Earls, had said at the last meeting that he would understand if they decided to penalize the company. Sundquist pointed out that they had just recently asked for the extension and had unfairly blamed the failure to communicate the need for an extension on Wiley.
The decision on whether to grant the fines waiver was put on hold pending the next meeting with the Department of Revenue Administration.