Andy Sanborn files bill requiring city councilors take oath on assessments
Under legislation proposed by state Sen. Andy Sanborn, city councilors and selectmen in New Hampshire would vote and take an oath to confirm property assessments each year.
Sanborn, a Bedford Republican who owns commercial properties in Concord, said he filed the bill this year at the request of fellow property owners. The total assessed value of commercial property in Concord increased last year for the first time since 2008; Sanborn and others have spoken out against their increased tax bills and the city’s assessment process.
Properties are assessed by each city or town’s assessing departments and information is submitted to the state Department of Revenue Administration, but Sanborn said elected officials should be held responsible for property assessments.
Under the bill, selectmen, city councilors and mayors would take an annual oath and roll call vote after viewing property assessments.
“I . . . certify under the penalty of perjury that in making the assessments for the purpose of foregoing taxes, all taxable property was appraised to the best of my knowledge and belief at its full value, in accordance with state appraisal standards,” the oath would read, according to a draft of the bill.
Assessors and selectmen in New Hampshire towns are already required by state law to take a similar oath, but the law does not apply to city councilors or mayors.
“Our 220 some odd towns, the selectmen are required to affirm inventory and tax rates, but ironically that’s not a requirement for our 10 cities,” Sanborn told a group of property owners yesterday at a seminar about filing for tax abatements. “So I think we all share some frustration with the council and the mayor, and I’ve been known to be pretty vocal about mine, so I specifically put some legislation in and would love to get the community’s support to require that cities are held to the same standard of honesty and transparency . . . on an annual basis.”
Currently, Concord’s Assessing Department conducts assessments and provides summary reports to the mayor and city councilors. Local assessing departments also must submit records to the state Department of Revenue Administration to set their tax rate each year.
Sanborn said his bill doesn’t require elected officials to have assessing expertise, but does add accountability and transparency to local government.
“So if you speak to your selectperson or your mayor (now) they say, ‘Well I wasn’t involved in the process and I don’t know anything about it,’ ” Sanborn told property owners gathered at Red River Theatres in Concord yesterday morning. “Legally, they aren’t required to. And I personally believe that there needs to be some consistency in that.”
Sanborn compared city councilors to CEOs of private companies who oversee many departments. To ensure that elected officials know what their assessing departments are doing, he proposed they take the annual oath.
“Is there any reason why they shouldn’t?” Sanborn said.