Room With A View

In my town our selectmen hired Avitar to assess property for the year 2005 because of an order by the Board of Tax and land Appeals - Superior Court for land tax issues. Our town let the assessments get so far out of hand the State noticed.

Avitar finished the job and offered residents a shot at coming to the Town Hall and showing that there might be mistakes on their new assessment card. I went with a couple to observe and asked for a copy of the Avitar Assessing Manual for our town. I was refused - went to Superior Court in October 2005 - won the manual, and could not make hide nor hair out of it.

Neither could the BTLA who ordered a hearing on Dec. 15, 2006 for Avitar to show that the manual complied with state laws for assessing firms - Dept. of Revenue Admin. Rule 600.

I did find that Avitar used four property sales to determine the value of views in my town. Only four sales. And all were supposed to be legitimate view sales.

Of the four sales the lowest was $25,000 for 3.5 acres of land. A house lot with a view.

The highest sale was a purchase by The Society for the Preservation of NH Forests for $275,000 for 90 acres of forest with one small open-sided cabin.

The problem with that sale being included in the average is it is NOT a view sale nor is it a legitimate market sale. It is a sale to a non-profit which has an agreement with our town to pay only $600 per year in property taxes – one tenth of what it would normally pay. They can easily log the property and make money owning the land.

Avitar can not call itself a legitimate assessing firm and use a sale such as this as though it was a fair market value sale. Just as a family sale or divorce sale is not used. It was a way to inflate view assessments plain and simple.

On my 50 acre property we have 48 acres in “current use” – an open space credit. Two acres are set aside at full value for the house and improvements. This portion of the property has views and is assessed $90,000 - just for the view. A view tax.

Out in one field we have a 10x20 shed about five and a half feet high inside for the sheep to stay in overnight during the summer. The shed is made of plywood and pressure treated 4x4's. It has a corrugated plastic roof. The sheep live in it. It has no water, no electric, no sewer. It is not a residence. It is assessed for a couple hundred dollars.

The sheep shed has an $80,000.00 view tax assessed to it.

This is how the View Tax works.