Conway residents challenge property reval, push for full reassessment

Conway property owner Jim Prue told selectmen in March there are major problems with the town's revaluation and that caused residential homeowners to pay more in property taxes than they should.

Conway property owner Jim Prue told selectmen in March there are major problems with the town's revaluation and that caused residential homeowners to pay more in property taxes than they should. DAYMOND STEER—Conway Daily Sun staff photo

By DAYMOND STEER

Conway Daily Sun

Published: 07-09-2024 12:09 PM

Modified: 07-09-2024 2:09 PM


In January, 100 or so frustrated taxpayers took to town hall to take issue when a recent reval of their properties caused a sudden spike in their taxes. Now, a group of Conway taxpayers has petitioned the N.H. Board of Land and Tax Appeals to order a full reassessment in 2024.

The New Hampshire Board of Tax & Land Appeals (BTLA) is an alternative forum to the Superior Court system. Among the items in the BTLA's jurisdiction is matters concerning the reassessment of property. 

Town Clerk Louise Inkell said Monday she is in the process of verifying the signatures. The lead petitioners are Jim and Karen Prue, who are Conway taxpayers.

At least 50 signatures are needed under RSA 71-B:16. 

"We ended up with 64," said one of the lead petitioners, Jim Prue, in a phone interview Monday. "I had people lined up. I could have gotten another 100." 

Prue said the BTLA recommended getting around 60 signatures. 

Karen Prue said the signatures were sent to the BTLA with a $65 filing fee. The petition signatories have been sent by the state to the town clerk for validation on June 19. The town has 30 days to complete the validation and respond then the investigation will begin.

The revaluation, conducted by contracted assessor Marybeth Walker of Corcoran Consulting Associates of Wolfeboro, took place last year. It was done a year earlier than required because assessed values were out of alignment with market trends.

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According to Walker’s presentation in January, residential properties were well undervalued as compared to commercial properties. This means that the burden of funding the town, school, state and county government shifts from commercial to residential property owners. She said those governments are not putting extra money in the town’s coffers due to the reval.

The Prues question the accuracy of the assessment. They believe there is a "significant issue with how unsold commercial properties were reassessed in 2023."

“We brought this issue to Marybeth Walker at the public meeting on Jan. 2 and again on Feb. 27 and the board of selectmen in mid-March and no one can provide a reasonable explanation with corroborating data to justify the results. We had no other choice but to petition for a reassessment order,” Jim Prue said.

In March, Jim Prue told selectmen about $109 million in assessed value in town is unaccounted for in the tax rate calculation, and this translates to $1,253,272 worth of burden being shifted to residential property owners in town.

Walker declined comment Monday other than to say she is aware of the Prue's petition.

"The town is doing any responses to the press," said Walker. "You have to go through them." 

The Sun also spoke to Town Manager John Eastman about the petition. He said it's like the start of a court case. 

"We have counsel who specializes in this," said Eastman referring to the firm of Drummond and Woodsum, which has an office in Manchester. "So when it's time to go to the BTLA... and all that kind of thing we will be there and will be represented."

According to Prue, Corcoran Consulting Associates, who conducted the 2023 reassessment, stated in the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice report to the state that commercial properties sold between Oct. 1 2021 and Sept. 30, 2023 increased by 58 percent (median), but unsold commercial properties their reassessments increased by 19 percent (median).

"This is pushing commercial tax burden to residential taxpayers and needs to be adjudicated," said the Prues in a statement. 

The Prues are also requesting the BTLA to not burden the town with reassessment costs if the order is granted and Corcoran is selected due to a lack of available/qualified assessors in New Hampshire.

"Why should Conway have to pay them again," he said.

The 2023 base tax rate, which is the most current, is $10.18 per $1,000 of property value. The 2022 rate was $17.08. The base rate includes town, county, local school and state school tax rates. Conway has precinct taxes on top of those. Selectmen  decided to use $2 million of fund balance (surplus) to lower the municipal portion of the tax rate.

The 2023 base tax rate (which includes town, county, local school and state school taxes) is now $10.18 per $1,000 of property value, as opposed to $17.08 in 2022. However,  values of many residential properties are considerably higher so some people ended up with much heftier tax bills.

“We’re looking forward to a complete and thorough investigation by the BTLA”, the Prues said. “We just want fair and equitable assessments.”