Today I went to the Hillsboro Town Office to pick up a simple but interesting Right To Know Request. All I want is the market data, statistical analysis, and tax rate formula used by Hillsboro for the change in taxation of the small unbuildable lots in the Emerald Lake District of that town.
Is that too much to ask? I dropped off a simple written request several weeks ago after a chat with Hillsboro Town Manager James Coffey, who is also a Selectman in New Ipswich, I believe. (Time we started a group there.)
My first chat back in February with Town Manager Coffey was after I found out (by a waitress at the restaurant I eat at) that small 1 acre unbuildable lots worth very little were being taxed during a recent re-val at about $57,000 each. Some were sold that same year for as little as $500. As could be expected, all hell broke loose in the town office. I was going to help my waitress who gave me a copy of her tax bill so I had a reference point. When I arrived in the Hillsboro Town Office, Iris, the cracker-jack (no kidding they are lucky to have her) office-meister was already fixing the bills of people standing in line with over assessed tax bills in hand. This way no one would be forced to pay up just to get a tax return check later (smart and fair).
Mr. Coffey percolated this answer when I asked for the formula they were using for the instant rebate: “That information belongs to the assessing firm.”
That answer is nonsense not only because taxpayers bought the formula, but because under DRA Admin. Rule 600, assessing firms have to PROVE how they set assessment values. Here is why this particular info is so important and why Mr. Coffey wants to make me grind it out of him.
Hillsboro hired Nyberg and Purvis to assess the town which includes Emerald Lake District (kind of a town within a town). Nyberg and Purvis, now just Purvis after the Winchester Tax Revolt debacle in which they were caught, used the CAMA (computer assisted mass appraisal) software of the assessing firm Avitar to assess Hillsboro. Avitar is known as the “View Tax” company. Many of the towns that have tax groups, or are in contact with CNHT have had some problems with Avitar and are itching for info on them.
Nyberg-now-Purvis has to come clean about how they created a formula to “pay back” the overcharging of Emerald Lake taxpayers. That formula will tip CNHT off to the weakness in Avitar software which we can share with other towns. This particular mistake was worth about $500,000.00 if you believe the new formula. I don't – surprised?
So today I was supposed to pick up the materials I asked for in writing, the market data, statistical analysis, and tax formula used to correct the 2005 bills. Jim Coffey was summoned to the lobby. He said that the assessing firm tried to reach me but I never called back. (All they need do is send the stuff and a bill.)
Coffey told me the formula was created and may no longer exist. He said it was just a pile of documents on the guy's desk for a time then thrown out. (So what did you use for a formula to fix the 2005 tax bills?)
Then he said they just took all the sales, threw out the top and bottom 5% and used the averaged number of what was left. (What sales and how many? Do they match the ones I have?)
I told him that was unacceptable and not in compliance with assessing law so his guy had better remember the stuff I asked for. He knows this means court.
And court means:
Everyone finds out what a scandal assessing is in this state because some in Concord are more interested in building up resentment of the property tax in hopes of something more lucrative for politicians.