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Pole taxes: Even out utility property values

August 10. 2018 2:41PM

Some New Hampshire municipalities have found a way to reach their hands into the pockets of electric utility customers in other towns.

Public utilities pay state and local taxes on their property, such as the poles that carry power lines. The state tax rate is $6.60 per $1,000. The local tax rate is the same as other property.

But local tax payments vary widely because some towns assess the value of these utility poles much higher than others.

Towns with high assessments argue that utilities help keep local property taxes down for homeowners and other businesses. But that money ultimately comes from the electricity bills of New Hampshire ratepayers. Utilities have no choice. It’s not as if they can move their power lines to a town with lower assessments.

The Legislature has been struggling to harmonize utility property values across the state. Towns with high assessments are fighting to keep their revenue. That’s just a way to export their property tax burden to ratepayers in other parts of the state.

Lawmakers should provide uniform assessment standards for all utility property. The House considered such a bill last year, but ended up ducking the question by forming a study commissioner to look into it further. That commission meets tomorrow at the State House.

Ratepayers in one town should not be forced to subsidize homeowners in another.

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