BERLIN — The state Board of Tax and Land Appeals has decided to hold an evidentiary hearing on issues raised with the statistical update of residential property assessments undertaken by the city last year.
After receiving a letter in July from a property owner alleging there were “disproportionate abatements,” the Board of Tax and Land Appeals asked the city to respond.
The legal firm representing the Berlin board of assessors called the allegations “baseless” in an extensive response filed a month ago.
In an order issued on Oct. 29, the state board said it will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on Dec. 9 in Concord before deciding whether to exercise its reassessment authority. It directs City Manager James Wheeler, board of assessors members Robert Goddard, Mark Eastman and Kem Rozek, and officials of the assessing firm KRT Appraisals to appear.
Specifically, the Board of Tax and Land Appeals said it has questions and concerns about:
1) The rationale and timing of the city’s decision to perform the update last fall.
2) The city’s decision not to hold hearing or notify taxpayers of the new assessments resulting from the update.
3) The possible implementation of the new assessments prior to their acceptance by the board of assessors.
4) The selected time frame and small number of sales used in the update.
5) The resulting land valuation model.
6) The decision-making process on abatement applications resulting from the update.
The Board of Tax and Land Appeals said it also has questions about the obligations and performance of KRT as well as adjustments by the board of assessors for factors including depreciation, obsolescence, neighborhood codes, site index codes, building quality and condition factors.
By Nov. 14, the state board said the city is ordered to provide minutes of all its board of assessor and city council meetings pertaining to the update, all contracts with assessing firms including KRT Appraisals, and all correspondence between the city and the state Department of Revenue Administration regarding the update.
The city council authorized a statistical update of residential property assessments in September 2018 after sales date showed residential property values were increasing. The update was based on solely on data and there were no property visits.
The Board of Tax and Land Appeals said it received a July 22 letter from Berlin resident Stephen Dion, alleging there were “disproportionate abatements.”
Dion wrote that his application for an abatement was denied by the board of assessors because the board said he had not provided not provided it with comparable properties to support his argument of value. He said he had provided the board with five properties but said it was hard to find a similar style house. He also said he provided the board with an opinion of market value and comparative market analysis from a local real estate agent.
Still, Dion wrote that he was not going to appeal the board’s decision until he read until he read in the newspaper that all three members of the board of assessors were granted abatements as well as the son of one member.
While all board members were granted abatements, Dion pointed out the board rejected more than 50 percent of total abatement applications received.
The Board of Tax and Land Appeals asked the city to respond to Dion’s letter and the council approved the hiring of the Concord law firm of Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell to represent the board of assessors.
The state board said the law firm asserted Dion’s allegations were “baseless” and “without legal and/or factual merit.”
The city asked the Board of Tax and Land Appeals to “decline jurisdiction over this matter.”
In its order, the state board pointed out it has broad authority to investigate the allegations presented and can order a reassessment of any or all property in a taxing district.