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Sunday, October 6, 2013

In a decade, Nashua property assessments and family earnings drop significantly, while city spending rises

NASHUA – The combined value of all property in Nashua slid downward once again this month after the conclusion of the city’s regular revaluation process.

The assessed value of properties and utilities in the city dropped about $500 million in the revaluation, a regular process carried out by the assessor’s office to determine market values for homes and businesses. ...

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NASHUA – The combined value of all property in Nashua slid downward once again this month after the conclusion of the city’s regular revaluation process.

The assessed value of properties and utilities in the city dropped about $500 million in the revaluation, a regular process carried out by the assessor’s office to determine market values for homes and businesses.

The revaluation wrapped up last week, and it pegged the combined value of all properties in Nashua at about $8.1 billion, according to chief assessor Angelo Marino.

That’s down from about $8.6 billion last year. And it’s down from a high of $9.5 billion in 2009 – a decline of about 15 percent.

“The effect is that the city isn’t as valuable as it used to be,” Marino said.

At the same time that property values have been dropping, the city’s annual financial reports show government spending has been going up in Nashua at the same time families have been taking home less money.

The city’s total expenditures have climbed from $181 million in 2003 to $235 million in 2012.

One example of the rise is in general government expenses, which lingered between $9 million and $11 million a year in the early 2000s, but rose to $24 million in fiscal 2008 and have remained above $20 million a year ever since. Spending in the general government category excludes the police and fire departments, education, public works and health and human services.

Meanwhile, family incomes began dropping at exactly the same point, sinking from a median family income of about $84,000 in 2008 to $60,923 last year.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said there’s an upside to the city’s falling assessing figures.

Property values dropped even more sharply after the last revaluation in 2009 and 2010, which came on the heels of a massive downturn in the real-estate market, coupled with a collapse in the economy.

“Initially when we saw the results of the 2010 revaluation, I was very concerned, because it was just such a significant kind of immediate drop,” Lozeau said.

“This time I’m not as concerned because to me, this time what it’s showing is we’re kind of leveling out – we’re kind of resetting the table. That seems to make sense to me.”

The city is required to come up with new assessment values at least once every five years.

The process doesn’t require inspecting every commercial and residential property. Marino said inspections took place at homes that sold recently or at properties owned by taxpayers who requested inspections or an abatement.

For other properties, the city uses sales figures and other data to calculate assessments, such as size, style and age of construction.

“We look at the existing tables that we have that make up that assessment, and then we calibrate those tables to arrive at a statistically significant answer of what that assessment should be,” Marino said.

Although property values have dropped since 2009, Marino said the change is “all market driven,” meaning circumstances in the real-estate market are driving assessments.

“It’s about (on par with) what we’re seeing across the state, depending on the location of the community,” he said.

However, as property values have gone down, people will notice their tax bills have remained steady or crept up even as a family’s take-home income has fallen.

Lozeau said the recession hit harder than many people expected, but it’s encouraging to see things going “back to normal.”

She pointed out there have been no major cuts in city services over the last few years, and said the city is in the midst of a “good budget year” that’s likely to see stability in the tax rate and assessed values and growth through new construction.

Lozeau pointed out that a majority of Nashua taxpayers – about 58 percent – will pay the same amount or less in property taxes in the coming year. About 30 percent more will see property tax bills increase from $1-$300.

“I think you’ll see the $8 billion be more of a stable circumstance, and I think what we’ll see is as the new properties are opening up or renovating … that’s going to help us, and our strength will come from growth and not from value alone,” she said.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).