Contrary to popular belief locally, commercial property owners in Portsmouth pay their fair share of taxes, according to city's assessor and finance director. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)
PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth officials defended their recent revaluation of residential and commercial properties during a city council workshop Monday evening.
Finance Director Judie Belanger said despite the beliefs of some residents who have reached out to her department, commercial property owners are paying their fair share of taxes.
“Our jobs are to be factual and to be fair,” Belanger said. “We do not apply values to properties artificially.”
Belanger and Assessor Rosann Lentz said at a rate of $15.36 per thousand, Portsmouth has the lowest equalized tax rate of all communities in New Hampshire with 20,000 residents or more.
At 43 percent, Portsmouth’s commercial base is second in the state for its percentage share of the city’s total valuation. Tilton is first at 50 percent. Manchester’s percentage is 36 percent, they said.
The state Department of Revenue Administration requires cities and towns to revalue all properties every five years. In a meeting last month, Belanger told the council that city officials are also obligated to revalue properties if they notice a dramatic change in values, which is what has happened over the course of the last two years as the local residential market boomed.
In a summary of sales prepared for city councilors prior to Monday’s workshop, officials stated that between Jan. 1, 2015, and April 1, 2017, there were 45 total commercial sales in Portsmouth.
Breaking down the numbers, 13 office condos were sold. The average size was just over 3,000-square-feet, and the adjusted median sale price was $176 per square foot, or $528,000, according to the report.
One 5,540-square-foot restaurant was sold at 1464 Woodbury Ave. for $3,295,000, according to the report.
A 13,139-square-foot marina at 187 Wentworth House sold for $3 million, according to the report.
When Mayor Jack Blalock asked if the revaluations could be ignored for the time being to protect homeowners who are concerned about the higher valuations, Lentz said doing that would actually hurt residential property owners more in the long run.
Acting City Manager Nancy Colbert Puff said they cannot use the valuation prior to the revaluation and raise the tax rate accordingly because the DRA has advised them that it is neither recommended nor “technically achievable,” and taxes would increase disproportionately to market value.