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Some Concord properties haven’t been assessed since 1990

There are some properties in the city of Concord that have not been assessed since 1990.

That’s 24 years to gain or lose value.

But records on those properties haven’t been updated because the assessing department has no way to do so, the board reported to the city council this week.

George Hildrum, chairman of the Board of Assessors, told the council that shortfall in data is the reason for a second year of record-high abatement requests. He asked the council to consider doing a full measure and list of properties.

“I think it’s fair to say the biggest problem we have recognized as a board is oftentimes our data. . . . We would recommend that over the next five years that we develop a program that will allow the assessing office to go through every property in the city to make sure we have the right information,” Hildrum said.

For the 2012 tax year, Concord received 356 requests for abatement – a much greater number than the typical 200 to 250. To date for the 2012 tax year, Deputy City Manager for Finance Brian LeBrun said the city has paid out nearly $789,000 to taxpayers who challenged their property assessments – in addition to $1 million of a $1.6 million settlement with Steeplegate Mall over its property value.

That number does not include any future payments that could be made on 70 appeals still pending with the state Board of Tax and Land Appeals or in superior court. Of the 84 cases filed in both of those places, 14 have already been withdrawn, settled and/or dismissed.

“This is everything that’s been settled and paid,” LeBrun said.

In its report, the board outlined several recommendations to avoid so many requests in the future.

Among those recommendations was a full measure and list, or a new citywide inspection and assessment of all properties in the city, to be conducted over the next five years, which Hildrum told the council has not been done since 1990. Currently, the department is only able to update property information on a case-by-case basis, such as when an owner applies for a building permit, requests an inspection or volunteers information about his or her property.

He suggested all commercial properties be assessed in the first year – approximately 300 of the 356 abatement applications came from commercial or industrial properties – and the rest be completed gradually over the next four years.

Other suggestions to the council included:

∎ Requiring “as-built” plans to be submitted for all commercial and industrial properties to help determine building size, property use and whether the property has been fully developed.

∎ Strengthening the requirements for a building permit or asking property owners to fill out annual inventory forms.

∎ Supporting legislation that would require commercial property owners to submit income and expense information when requested by the city.

∎ Supporting legislation that would negate a property owner’s right to appeal a property’s value if he or she refused a full inspection of that property.

The council voted to accept the report, but that doesn’t mean any of its recommendations will be adopted any time soon. City Manager Tom Aspell said some of the recommendations could be considered by the council later on or referred to the Fiscal Policy Advisory Committee.

“In the future, yes,” Aspell said. “In the near future, no.”

There’s no easy fix to get Concord residents to update their property information more often, he said.

“It’s one of those things that there’s no simple solution,” Aspell said.

The department is already trying to improve some of its results. The city will send out alert notices to give a heads-up to property owners whose assessments are increasing by 20 percent or $50,000, so any errors can be corrected early on.

In the meantime, Kathy Temchack, the city’s director of real estate assessments, is trying to stay on top of data with a small staff. Temchack said her department only has three workers who do inspections on the city’s properties to update their value.

“The information needs to be accurate, and . . . the reality is when you do an inspection of a property, whatever we see at the minute is what’s valid for that minute,” Temchack said. “We could walk out the door and somebody could gut the place and redo the whole thing, and our information that was relevant for that period of time is now outdated.”

The city would need to hire more staff for her department to do a full measure and list of the city’s properties, Temchack said, or it could contract the work to an outside company.

Board member Guy Petell agreed the department doesn’t have the resources to inspect all the city’s properties now.

“I don’t think there’s any way you could do a full measure and list with the personnel we have there now,” Petell said. “I think that would be impossible.”

Petell is now retired, but he used to work as the director of the state Department of Revenue Administration’s property appraisal division. He said most New Hampshire cities appraise all their properties every 10 to 12 years.

“We feel like it’s time that (Concord) stepped up,” he said.

No matter how it happens, both the board and Temchack want that full measure and list of the city’s properties to happen soon.

“The sole purpose of what we do here ultimately goes back to everyone paying their fair share based on the value of their property,” Temchack said. “I don’t want to be over-assessing people, and I don’t want to be under-assessing people.”

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

Legacy Comments8

It seems to me that the city has not been particularly fiscally sound in its financial decisions on where to spend money. Properties not being assessed in 24 years is downright irresponsible of city management. It sounds like they need to hire more staff rather then spending money on settlements and court costs. Before they pour a lot of money into projects they should be managing city needs. Time to vote in new management!

The city needs to find additional revenue so it can continue to subsidize the Main Street gang. Between duprey handouts and its desire for avoiding more accessibility claims to Main Street businesses which prompted the Main Street project, there's a $10 million short fall the assessing dept can recover by increasing the tax burden on residential properties when someone wants to change out a shower curtain.

Actually it is not that difficult to get people to turn in a real estate assessment form. Make the ordinance say that when a property is sold an assessment must be made by a real estate broker or if a cash sale then by a certified property inspector. If the form shows something different than what is on file then the seller owes back takes for every year since the former inspection was done - no sale until the back taxes are paid. Start the clock today requiring every property owner to file the form within 2 months or face a fine and automatic assessment with no appeal right. As the article says - you can't trust people to do the right thing.

Gestapo world according to Jim. Now you know how liberal progressive democrats think. Jim, do you know that the people actually own the Govt and that Govt does not rule the people? liberals would like to see the government exercise more control over our movement, our retirement income, our heathcare, our private property, our speech. I bet Jim and his ilk will push for a tax on every mile you drive. "Republicans believe that every day is July 4th. Democrats believe that every day is April 15th". -Ronald Reagan

The difference between us is my post puts the burden of honesty on the citizen. Simply be honest and show what you have done with the property. NO government person comes out to check. Now if you lie and cheat, my way does penalize the cheater - not the honest person. In your mind the citizen should have a right to lie and cheat or do anything to hide what one has done from the town. It sounds like you also feel the government should always have the responsibility to go out and catch the cheater, so in my opinion YOU are the one that wants bigger government. My way takes less government…….. P.S. - how exactly would your no government world work?

The liberals problem is that you "perceived" a problem where none exists - typical of the knee jerk liberal progressive democrat law making There is not a major or even a minor problem to be addressed. I am in the assessors database of towns across the state on an almost daily basis. I am in homes and doing drive by inspections to see if I want to invest or our merry band of elves need to go assist a low income, elderly, disabled or vet that need some help.. No major or even minor problem exists with the work assessors are doing. I suspect that you really believe there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - Liberals sheeeeesh !!!!!

The article clearly states the assessor’s office itself says the database is not up to date. The only people that don't want records up to date are the cheaters. I suggest an idea that does not expand government, does not have the government coming out to check on you, lowers the cost of government, makes everyone pay their share and you don't like that either. I would think someone in your business would want accurate records. Are you hiding something???

A wet behind the ears liberal journalist 1 year out of college interviews a BIG Govt employee stating the standard eternal BIG Govt Propaganda that they need more people and money. The knee jerk liberal immediately proposes gestapo laws. That pretty much sums it all up. Post 5 of 12 on 2/16

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