Northern New England Telephone challenges Lakes Region tax assessmentsBy BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent
September 25. 2018 10:55PM
LACONIA — The company that took over FairPoint Communications has filed for abatements in three Lakes Region communities for tax year 2017.
Northern New England Telephone Operations LLC is seeking tax relief for properties it owns in Gilford, Laconia, and New Hampton according to recent filings in Belknap County Superior Court.
In Gilford, the town has assessed utility poles and conduits at $1,923,400, which resulted in a tax bill of $25,174,000 which the company is challenging as excessive.
In Laconia, the city has assessed utility property at 1203 Weirs Blvd., at $3,654,900 of which $1,829,600 represents conduit value and $1,554,200 is assessed to poles. In New Hampton an assessment of $1,422,800 that was levied is being disputed.
Beginning in 1993, municipalities began levying a property tax against telephone utilities based on the value of their communications plants and equipment that the municipalities claimed constituted fixtures.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court later rejected that practice, holding such properties are not fixtures to the real estate they were situated on and hence were not taxable in that manner.
In 1998, the Legislature enacted a law which provided for municipal taxation as real estate of all structures, poles, towers and conduits employed in the transmission of telecommunications, cable or commercial mobile radio services.
At the same time the Legislature adopted a law which exempted conduits and wooden poles. The exemption was repealed and became effective on July 1, 2010.
Northern New England Telephone asserts in its abatement requests that due to “significant variances” in pole/conduit assessments throughout New Hampshire, laws were adopted in 2016 that required municipalities to use values established by the Department of Revenue Administration.
The utility claims the assessments are disproportional because the properties are over-assessed and further that the municipalities have intentionally discriminated against the company through selective taxation by assigning different values to utility poles depending of whether they are being used for telecommunications or to carry electricity.