Picture a small circle of people who have the power of the legislature without the veto of the Governor and you have the NH Assessing Standards Board. They are the good people who created the View Assessment, or in other words, the View Tax.
The View Tax was created during the birth of the statewide property tax scam and it flourished with the tender loving care of State Representative Betsy Patten, guardian of all that is larger municipal government.
We have always had a “view tax” but it was part of an overall assessed value of your property. Just as some properties have privacy or seclusion as a selling point, views have value. Here is the problem in layman's terms.
The Assessing Standards Board is made up of up to 15 individuals selected through a process laid out in RSA 21-J14-a, the DRA statute. It is filled with people who have interests in assessing property, the most prominent member being one Gary Roberge of the state's largest assessing firm, Avitar.
If your town isn't being assessed by Avitar, over 100 are, it is probably being assessed with Avitar software.
Four members of the Assessing Standards Board are, coincidentally, selected by the NH Association of Assessing Officials as per 21-J14-a, II.
If you haven't guessed already, these two board share common interests as well as members. One of the most prominent members is – you guessed it, Garry Roberge of Avitar.
In that capacity Mr. Robarge is able to draft the laws regarding all assessing in New Hampshire and apply them to himself and his software.
Nice deal for Avitar. Bad deal for taxpayers!
This means the average taxpayer must be able to debate the Avitar/Patten/Lynch view tax
by being able to counter the ridicules View Assessment Manuals Avitar creates in each town. Except for instance in cities with high-rise apartments. They seem to have been spared the view assessment, but anyone knows a view is part of the package.
Oh I said LYNCH view tax. That was not a mistake. “Governor Not Benson” just nominated Roberge for another term on the Assessing Standards Board but as often happens Governor Not Benson could not make up his mind when the going got hot, as in lots of pressure from taxpayers furious at the view Assessment to get rid of Roberge, so our Governor let the NH Association of Assessing Officials reappoint Roberge. Nice move.
Back to the Avitar/Patten/Lynch View Tax.
Now this Avitar Assessing Manual for Views is a hoot. They take a few pictures around town of what might be considered typical views. They categorize them and assign them values. This is almost laughable.
Instead of using sales to determine the worth of a view on any given property, street, or neighborhood as we do with everything else with a value as high as the Avitar/Patten/Lynch View Tax, taxpayers now have to fight an unfair reassessment with a formula created out of a book of photos. At least with lake frontage assessment you have a per foot measurement to start with and everyone is on the same body of water. Not so the view tax.
In July of 2004 I started asking the Town of Deering where I, unfortunately for them, reside for the assessing manual Avitar is supposed to supply to us during our new reassessment according to Administrative Rule 600 (another non-legislative law). “Not public” I was told.
So off to Hillsborough Superior I went with a Right-to-Know case and the day before our hearing the Town surrendered the 109 page manual made by Avitar. It had the wholly subjective “Deering View Assessment Manual” included.
What was not, and as of today as far as I know, still not included in the contentious manual was the basic data Avitar was supposed to use to set values to property in town. This data is required by statute and there is no way of knowing how Avitar came up with property values without that data.
But we got that View Assessment book alright. My question is, would the View Assessment Book be as incomplete and incomprehensible as the Assessing Manual pawned off in my town.
Make sure your selectmen are aware of what is going on in other towns and are looking out for the taxpayers in your town, not the assessing officials. Get informed and stand up for yourself. Don't let the performance bond go until the assessing firm has completed a satisfactory job which complies with the law.
Ed Naile, Chair CNHT