by Eugene Reed
This is a response to Gary Roberge, the CEO of Avitar, the property-assessing company:
Government spending does create the need for taxes. However, unfair, inaccurate, unfounded opinions and flawed software are only some of the assessing abnormalities in New Hampshire that exist to the detriment of taxpayers. Paying our fair share (and our fair share only) is a property owner’s constitutional responsibility. Multiplying the tax rate times assessed value, which is determined by assessors, equals each tax bill. A mistakenly high property assessment results in a disproportionate tax burden on the property owner.
Avitar provides assessing services to more than 100 New Hampshire municipalities. Roberge is far too modest in calling it a “small private company.” The way he runs Avitar can be problematic for more than 200,000 taxpayers. One would expect Avitar to be at the leading edge of assessing practices, knowledge and technology. It is not.
Industry standards require that the “opinion of fair market value” upon which taxes are based be supported by clear and detailed analysis. Roberge prefers not to mention that or to supply the details to taxpayers in a uniform and understandable way. That is why the view tax discussion goes on ad nauseam.
As far as his rant that the “public is thinking upside down” – I get it! Those pesky taxpayers are so stupid, they think “upside down.”
Roberge states that assessors must be certified by the Department of Revenue. But the state requires no demonstration of assessing competency. Take some courses (no passing test score required), show up for assessing work for four years (no list of tasks accomplished) and you are eligible for state certification. The state requires no test either. Congratulations, you may now go forth and assess.
The only effective oversight comes from taxpayers who finally reach their limit of tolerance of a flawed system.
Roberge writes that “New Hampshire has a good process” for appeals and abatements for assessors who “occasionally make mistakes.” Assessors encourage taxpayers to address real and perceived grievances through this process. Roberge does not mention that the appeals playing field is noticeably tipped in favor of the assessors. It takes a determined taxpayer to prevail if an assessor chooses not to admit his or her mistake.
In the interest of taxpayer understanding of this business of assessing and its relationship to individual tax bills, I’d like to see some educational leadership from any or all of the following: The state Department of Revenue, the New Hampshire Association of Assessing Officials or the Concord Monitor. Until this happens, the public will not know who is “thinking upside down.”
Eugene Reed of Nottingham is a former municipal assessor, public member of the state Assessing Standards Board, associate member of the International Association of Assessing Officials and associate member of the New Hampshire Association of Assessing Officials.