One Selectmen’s Report: October 9, 2013

by on October 9, 2013 in Home Page, Projects, Selectmen

Underneath the Nelson Town HallHello everyone,

 

I have a couple of topics for my report today, Town Building Projects and Property Taxes

 

Our Town Buildings Committee and Grant Writers have been making good progress in developing designs for our Town Hall restoration work and in acquiring grants to help with its funding. As you may recall the Select Board was charged, by the 2013 Town Meeting, to hire an architect to develop construction drawings and specifications for Town Hall renovations and for the remodeling of the Library basement. These drawings and specifications are to be used to acquire bids for the completion of these two projects. Final designs and costs for completion of these projects will be brought to Town Meeting 2014 for the approval of the Town.

 

We have received a “Moose Plate Grant” in the amount of $10,000 to be used for the restoration of the windows in the Town Hall. This money must be spent before the end of 2014. However this work should be done only after all necessary jacking or squaring of the building has been completed. No matching funds are required for the use of this grant. In addition, we have applied once again for a New Hampshire LCHIP, (Land and Community Heritage Investment Program), grant for the renovations needed for the Town Hall. This year we have applied for $100,000 from LCHIP. The award of the LCHIP grant does require the local contribution of matching funds. Our thanks go to our Grant Writers, Susan Hansel, Lisa Sieverts, and Bert Wingerson for their great work.

 

During the month of September, the Town Buildings Committee has been working with Jeff Trexler, our Structural Engineer, evaluating the condition of the Town Hall. Jeff completed and submitted his findings in a report to the Committee on 9/23. A copy of Jeff’s report is available by clicking here.  Jeff’s main conclusions are that the structure of the Town Hall, although presently adequately stable, is in need of substantial repair and reinforcement in the very near future. Click here to see pictures complementing Jeff’s assessment.

 

The Buildings Committee is continuing to consider employing the services of a Construction Manager for our projects. Both Jeff and our architect Paul Hemmerich prefer this approach. A Construction Manager’s knowledge and experience with methods and costs for ground water management and structural renovations could be especially helpful in the acquisition of not-to-exceed bids for the Town Hall renovation work.

 

Also, the Buildings Committee is seeking candidates to fill a vacancy on the Committee. Anyone who is interested in serving should contact me via e-mail or by phone at 847-3449.

 

And lastly from the Buildings Committee, we are planning our next Public Forum to discuss design considerations sometime toward the middle of November. I’ll forward the time and place for this meeting to you as soon as I have it.

 

And now on to perhaps a not so pleasant topic, property taxes. Three years ago the Town contracted with a company called Cartographic Associates to update our property tax maps. This work was completed a few months ago and the results delivered to the Town Office. The results of this work were and continue to be rather disconcerting. First the new tax map lot identification numbers are not the same as those that we have historically used. And secondly, the new tax maps show lot sizes that very often differ from the previous versions. The new maps show an increase in area for approximately one third of the lots, a decrease in area for another one third of the lots, with the final one third remaining more or less as before.

 

Our town administrative assistant, Edie Drinkwater, and Loren Martin, our assessor from Avitar, our new assessing company, solved the lot identification number problem by creating a new cross reference field in our property tax management software. For changes in lot size, Cartographic Associates has a process whereby they will review the documents of those landowners who believe that an error exists in the sizes of their lots as shown on the new tax maps. Cartographic Associates gives registered surveys the highest priority when determining lot size, next comes precise deed information, and finally, not-so-precise deed information. Edie has mailed notices to those property owners whose tax map lot sizes have experienced significant change. She has been working for the past couple of months helping those who have concerns to organize the information required by Cartographic Associates in order to process their complaint. Resolving the lot size questions is likely to take many more months to complete. As a result, we will be using our previous tax map information for our second round of 2013 tax billing.

 

Completion and mailing of tax bills to our property owners can only happen after the NH Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) has established the tax rate for our Town. The tax rate is based on our total assessed valuation, the Town appropriations approved at Town Meeting, the School appropriation approved at School District Meeting, the County Tax (over $410,912.00 this year), the State Education Tax, and the revenues on hand at the end of the previous year. As she did in 2012, Edie submitted all of our necessary financial reports to the DRA prior to September 1.  And as happened in 2012, the calculation of our tax rate will be delayed by the DRA, this time while they gather data relative to school funding.

 

And finally on the property tax front, I have been in contact with our State Senator, Molly Kelly, and suggested legislation that I believe could make our property tax system more equitable. The intent of this legislation would be to distribute the property tax burden as a function of a family’s income. I envision what I would call an “Income Exemption” that would work in a similar fashion to our present “Elderly Exemption”. The “Income Exemption” system would provide, to those who qualify, a reduction in their assessed valuation based on their income. There would be a sliding scale whereby those with lower incomes would receive a greater reduction in the assessed value of their property, while those with higher incomes would receive a lesser reduction until an income level was reached at which no reduction would be applied. With this plan, the “No New Taxes” folks can keep their promises while the rest of us can introduce the ability-to-pay concept into our otherwise regressive property tax system.

 

Obviously there are many details to sort through before such legislation could be adopted. Senator Kelly has offered to research the constitutionality of such a measure and has asked me to poll the residents of our Town to get a sense of your feelings about a plan of this sort. I’d appreciate your questions and comments in this regard.

 

Well, that’s all for now. Enjoy the Fall in our great Town.

 

Dave Upton

davidupton2@yahoo.com

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