Mayor comments misleading

This letter responds to Mayor Donchess’scomments at the conclusion of the Board of Alderman meeting on Nov. 27, 2018. Specifically, it was the second time (that I am aware of) where the mayor has mentioned in a public forum that “The Ortolanos’ tax bill will be going down 20 percent.” The implication being we have nothing to be complaining about.

Since the mayor has been so interested in sharing the “good news” about our property tax going down, I thought it only appropriate to share the rest of this story. In 2014, within 1 month of purchasing our home at 41 Berkeley Street, the Nashua Assessors office increased our Assessment (and corresponding property tax) by a little over 50 percent, without even visiting the property. I grew up in Nashua, I’m a graduate of Nashua High and maintained Nashua as my home of record during college and after that during the five years I was on active duty in the Navy. Moving to Nashua was coming home. And I have to say it was a most disappointing homecoming.

Anyway, the Ortolanos’ 2017 Property Tax for 41 Berkeley St. was just more than $18,000. That’s a pretty big number for a nearly 100-year-old home on a 1/3 acre lot. On a dollar per square foot basis, this equates to approximately $208 per square foot.

In comparison, the Mayors home, which is just a few blocks away, had a 2017 Property Tax of about $7,400. On a dollar per square foot basis Mayors property was taxed at a rate of approximately $118/Sq. Ft.

It takes some brass for the mayor, in a Public forum, to be talking about our tax bill going down by 20 percent when in 2017 we paid close to 80 percent more than he did on a dollar per square foot basis and over $10,000 more on a cash basis.

I would encourage the mayor to forget about my tax bill and focus on what is going on in the Assessors Department and the practices that have led to such a significant difference.

It will be interesting to see if the review he has ordered is aimed at understanding and fixing problems or just creating good optics. Serious thought should be given to the staff performing this review, their level of expertise on the subject matter, and their capacity for independent thought to ensure the process is not viewed as whitewashing by the public.

Property tax is a zero-sum game, so for everyone that gets a sweetheart deal on their assessment someone else is getting the shaft. It will be a big win for the city if the current practices can be improved so ALL property owners can feel confident that the office responsible for distributing tax burden does so equitably and with a level of professionalism that is commensurate with the important nature of this work.