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February 20. 2012 11:01PM

Do away with view tax? No, House committee says

CONCORD — A House committee has nixed a bill that would have eliminated the so-called “view tax” and other subjective factors in property assessments.

House Bill 1393 would have required assessors to determine the market value of a residential property based on a comparison to sales in the town in the prior two years. If no such sales occurred, those from a comparable nearby community would be used. In no case, the bill stated, “shall a separate addition of the value of a view be included.”

The House Municipal and County Government Committee voted 15 to 1 last week to designate the bill “inexpedient to legislate,” effectively killing it this session.

Writing for the majority, Rep. Betsey Patten, R-Moultonborough, said the bill would have taken away “tools from the assessing practices that make the final town-wide assessment reasonable and proportional as required by our Constitution.”

Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, was the only lawmaker to vote in favor of the bill, which he wrote would “fix the obvious and prolific problems that we have with subjective property assessments in this state.” He singled out the view tax, writing that it “may reflect anything from the mountains or lake out a back window, to the granite counter tops, leather couches and Monet paintings that go with them inside a home.”

City and town assessing officials strongly opposed the bill, arguing that view is only one factor among many that assessors use to calculate property taxes as fairly and accurately as possible.

David Scott, the former state representative who authored the bill, said he was disappointed by the vote.

“I don’t think (the lawmakers) understood the seriousness of the feeling of many taxpayers, that their assessments are unfair, arbitrary and very subjective,” he said.

Scott added that he intended to file the bill again. He said the bill was poorly received in part because it was significantly amended. Next time, he said, the bill will be clearer, and he will have more witnesses lined up to testify.

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