City to appraise all property, first time since ’91

NASHUA — Nearly three decades have passed by since city leaders appraised all of the property throughout Nashua, a survey known as a full measure and list.

City officials plan to conduct this measure at an approximate cost of $1.3 million — and hope it can put to rest months of accusations and innuendo involving the Assessing Department.

“There has been a campaign ongoing for what, a year now, claiming, without basis, but claiming that the Nashua records are full of inaccuracies, and there are all kinds of inequalities and problems,” Mayor Jim Donchess said.

The International Association of Assessing Officers recommends a full measure and list at least every nine years. During Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, an agenda item received approval that will fund this endeavor. Resolution 19-159 authorizes the mayor and city treasurer to issue bonds not to exceed $1.3 million for these property revaluation services.

Now, as a result of events that have transpired, both the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) and the Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) are expressing a strong desire that the city undertake this full measure and list.

Donchess said that campaign has been conducted in City Hall, and at the DRA in Concord. The city’s perception is that those two agencies have raised the priority for proceeding with this full measure and list.

That comment may have been aimed at Berkeley Street resident Laurie Ortolano, who has been in and out of City Hall during the last 10 months, bringing forth complaints about the Assessing Office, and requesting multiple documents.

Ortolano even went as far as to hire a private investigator to follow city employee Greg Turgiss, was allegedly found taking naps while on the taxpayers’ dime.

Donchess also said if a city resident genuinely believes there are issues that need to be corrected within the Nashua property records, the only way to address that in a comprehensive way is to undertake the full measure and list.

“I think the approach we need to take is to work with, cooperate and attempt to maintain a strong working relationship with the agencies that regulate our assessments,” Donchess said.

However, Nashua Corporation Counsel Steve Bolton made it known to the agencies that Nashua had plans to do this full measure and list for tax year 2022.

“Frankly, this is something I’ve recommended for approximately two years now,” Bolton said. “The suggestion that this is a knee-jerk reaction to some of the criticism that department has been subjected to over the last 10 months is inaccurate.”

Bolton said the BTLA typically hears specific cases when a taxpayer believes they have been disproportionately, or highly assessed in comparison to other properties in the community.

“By every statistical measure that the International Association of Assessing Officers has, and the standards they have set, we meet them all,” Bolton said.

Moreover, he also said that during the last 15 years, at five year intervals, the DRA did a study of all municipalities on assessing records. In doing so, they gathered a statistically significant number of samples and check those records for accuracy. If one card fails, the city still meets the standard. However, if two cards fail, the city flunks.

“We have never failed,” Bolton said.

Bolton said if the city does not undertake this full list and measure, he believes officials are going to see some push back from the DRA, who will encourage the BTLA to order the city take this step.

“I don’t want to see the state come in and tell what we have to do,” Alderwoman Patricia Klee said. “I want to do the right thing and I believe that based on the claims, I believe we owe the property owners our best effort to do the most that we can do.”

Moreover, the resolution passed by a roll call vote, with each member present voting yes to approve it, except for Alderman At Large Ben Clemons who voted no.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.