BERLIN — The board of assessors is meeting weekly as it considers abatement applications stemming from the city’s recent statistical update of residential properties.
Board Chairman Robert Goddard said the board received about 140 applications from taxpayers questioning their new property valuations. Assessing Coordinator Bryan Chevarie said that figure represents just over 4 percent of the 3,260 residential properties in the city. Among those filing appeals are all three members of the assessing board.
Board meetings have been ranging four to five hours as Goddard said the three members are moving slowly in reviewing the abatement requests. So far, the board has ruled on 46 of the applications.
“We’re spending an extraordinary amount of time but doing it correctly,” Goddard said. He said the board is making decisions based on careful consideration of the evidence.
The burden of proof rests with the applicant, who must make the case that their valuation is unfair and disproportionate. So far, the board has upheld the valuation in a majority of the applications it has ruled on.
In some cases, the applications have been tabled to allow the city’s appraisal firm, KRT Appraisals, to visit the property. The statistical update was based solely on sales data and there were no site visits.
Abatement requests must first go to the local board of assessors and the board has until July 24 to make a decision. Those denied then have until Sept. 24 to appeal the decision to the N.H. Board of Tax and Land Appeals or to Superior Court.
Under state law, the city is required to do a valuation update every five years. The last update was in 2015, but the city council decided to have a statistical update performed for 2018 after sales data showed residential property values in Berlin were increasing. With a $14 million decrease in the overall valuation of utility properties, the city felt it could offset that loss by the rise in residential valuations. The result was a $10 million overall increase in the city’s total valuation that allowed the city to avoid a large property tax rate increase.