BERLIN — The city is asking the state Board of Tax and Land Appeals to rule it has complied with its March 2021 order and declare the docket closed on its 2018 statistical update and 2020 revaluation of property assessments. In its order, the state board ruled the Berlin board of assessors acted improperly in granting themselves abatements of their 2018 property assessments. While the order dealt mainly with the 2018 update, the BTLA noted that work on the 2020 update was not complete at the time.
The N.H. Department of Revenue Administration is urging the BTLA not to close the docket. The DRA said it believes corrections still need to be made to the property assessments of the former board of assessors. The agency also points out that the 2020 revaluation did not adjust assessments for riverfront property and views.
The BTLA has scheduled a hearing on July 29 at 11 a.m. at its Concord office to hear testimony and arguments from both sides.
In its filing, the city said the three members of the board of assessors, Robert Goddard, Michael Eastman and Kem Rozek, stepped down after Mayor Paul Grenier asked for their resignations. Per the order, the city billed the three assessors and a family member for the property assessments abatements they granted each other for tax years 2018 and 2019 with interest assessed.
The BTLA ordered the city to have all the 2018 abatements granted by the Berlin board of assessors reviewed and the city said that was performed by Corcoran Consulting Associates. The city had Corcoran review all of the 2018 abatement applications denied by the Berlin board after being asked to do so by the DRA. In total, Corcoran reviewed over 100 abatement applications for 2018.
In its objection to closing the docket, the DRA said while the city has billed the board members for the amount they improperly saved themselves, no corrections to the tax cards were made until 2021. As a result, the DRA said the former board members enjoyed the improper abatements in 2020. The DRA also said the tax cards show some adjustments still have not been corrected.
The DRA argues the city is wrong when it insists there is no waterfront property in Berlin other than the small Head Pond off Route 110. The state notes there are many properties along the Androscoggin where the riverfront may add value. “The city continues not to account for the contributory value of views and has no reasonable basis for doing so. Furthermore, the city does not make value consideration for riverfront property in its 2020 revaluation, and has no reasonable basis for doing so.”
The DRA said not accounting for views and riverfront property results in “disproportionate taxation throughout the city.”
Unlike the previous hearings that happened during COVID-19, there will be no remote access to the July 29 hearing in Concord.